Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Family Feud Over GLBT Rights

Opponents of equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender persons are having a good time watching House Democrats feud with GLBT rights groups over whether to include gender identity protection in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The legislation proposes to include protection from workplace discrimination to persons based on their sexual orientation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already protects persons from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. GLBT rights groups want ENDA to include gender identity protection for transgender persons, in addition to sexual orientation protection. Indianapolis' HRO and the State of Indiana's EEO policy protect persons from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

When House Democratic leaders began the push for ENDA this fall, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an ENDA without transgender protections would be pursued because of the lack of support for inclusion of transgender rights among House Democratic members. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), one of two openly gay members of Congress, immediately jumped on board. "In general, in the legislative context, if you can pass a bill that improves things for a large number of people, then take it," Frank said. "The notion that you don't protect most people if you don't protect them all -- that's never worked." That drew a firestorm of protest from some within the GLBT community. Much criticism, however, was directed within the community towards the Human Rights Campaign ("HRC"), which some blame for the House Democratic leadership's decision to move forward without transgender protection.

The problem for Democrats are the Democrats elected from red states like Indiana. Reps. Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill all know that the religious right will hit them harder for a vote in favor of ENDA than just about any other vote they cast during the current legislative session. The "gender protection" aspect of these measures is a particularly attractive target for the religious right. As the general public becomes increasingly accepting of gays, simple gay bashing to defeat these legislative efforts doesn't gain as much traction for the religious right as it once did. Conservative Democrats, however, are particularly concerned about being labeled as voting to give "special rights to cross-dressers", an oft-repeated refrain we heard throughout the debate over Indy's HRO. At one point during the debate on Indy's HRO, sponsors seriously considered dropping the gender identity language. One of their complaints was that the "gender identity" provision generated the most heat for council members, and there were very few transgender persons who would come forward publicly to explain why the protection was necessary. The GLBT community held firm to its commitment to transgender persons and, in the end, prevailed by just one vote.

The U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate are much tougher nuts to crack than the Indianapolis City-County Council. As it stands now, ENDA will move to the floor out of the House Labor and Education Committee without the transgender language. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who is openly lesbian, will offer an amendment to restore the transgender language as she should. If it fails, however, there will be some in the GLBT community who will insist that the bill be allowed to die unless it is fully inclusive. I agree with Rep. Frank that it would be a terrible mistake to sacrifice civil rights advances for a much larger group for the sake of an equally deserving but much smaller group within the GLBT community. I also think some of these people are putting Reps. Donnelly, Ellsworth and Hill in an untenable position. If these guys are willing to support ENDA as passed out of the committee, count your blessings. I would also like to see Reps. Burton, Buyer, Pence and Souder join them in supporting ENDA, but I've seen enough of their anti-gay bigoted rhetoric in the past to know there's not a snowball's chance in hell of that happening. There will be at least a couple dozen GOP votes in the House for ENDA, if not more, but it won't include any member of Indiana's GOP delegation.

14 comments:

Lalita said...

Dr. King said that lack injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere. One doesn't need to endorse homosexuality to know that a hostile, threatening workplace is just stupid and dramatically diminshes productivity as everyone--particularly the bystanders--have to work in the mire of horrid behavior. I would despise the morning drive to work if I knew, straight little Black woman that I am, that I was going to be regaled with hateful, scornful, demeaning comments...made about someone else. That kind of enviroment would leave me sick...and looking for other employment.

We figured it out with race. We figured it out with gender. Now, we just have to figure this one out. How about now?

Angry Republican said...

Many years ago, Senator Barry Goldwater was asked his thoughts on the Rev. Jerry Falwell. His response was something like, "I think every good Christian ought to go kick Jerry Falwell sqaure in the ass."

As a Republican (and the kind of Republican who believes in the history of this party, meaning smaller, less intrusive government), the government (I think) has an imperative to ensure that its citizens are free from discrimination. If the religious right doesn't like what appears to be a moderation of the party (which would get it back to what it historically had been until it was hijacked by southern, conservative Democrats), let 'em go.

This isn't a partisan issue - it is a matter of equity and justice. You wanna hate gays? Fine, that's your right. But you don't get to use government to help you.

AR

Marti said...

3685 is horrid regardless of if it includes transgender people. The difference in the religious exemption is enough to neuter this into nothingness.

You write:

"GLBT rights want ENDA to include gender identity protection for transgender persons, in addition to sexual orientation protection."

That is false. Gender identity protects gender variant gays and lesbians as well as transgender people.

"Much criticism, however, was directed within the community towards the Human Rights Campaign ("HRC"), which some blame for the House Democratic leadership's decision to move forward without transgender protection."

Again, this is false. The Human Rights Campaign said on September 14, 2007 that they would OPPOSE a bill that didn't have transgender inclusion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_GhTiBO8Cw

It's rather ironic you'd take HRC's side when you're always pointing out other folks lack of integrity....

". I agree with Rep. Frank that it would be a terrible mistake to sacrifice civil rights advances for a much larger group for the sake of an equally deserving but much smaller group within the GLBT community."

Sheesh. What rhetoric! There will be NO SACRIFICE. NONE. This bill will NOT pass the Senate, and if it did by some miracle... a veto is waiting for it.

As a transgender person with a gay son, I'd be the last person who'd sacrifice this bill under the flag of transgender only or die.

I've always thought of you as an honest person, even if I disagreed with you here. But you're either very ignorant or being very dishonest.

Advance Indiana said...

Gee, Marty, you can't have it both ways. Either I'm accurately describing HRC's position or I'm not. You accuse me of taking HRC's position at the same time you accuse me of misrepresenting their position. Which is it? Your suggestion that ENDA doesn't have a chance at passage in the Senate is way off the mark. It does have a realistic chance of passage there. And I don't for a minute presume President Bush would veto ENDA. Second term presidents have a tendency of thinking long-term legacy. Don't write W off just yet.

Anonymous said...

Democra.... what??

I would have thought that a country such as the USA would not even have to got to "battle with this ENDA issue???

I live in a country (South Africa) where gay marriages are LEGAL, dispite the majority religious folk being against it. That is called TRUE Democracy where INDIVIDIAL minorities stand EQUAL to the right of a quality life.

Perhaps your Constitution needs a re-write ??

MTF (Transsexual) SA

Anonymous said...

Methinks Marti needs to get on decaf.

Marti said...

"Gee, Marty, you can't have it both ways. Either I'm accurately describing HRC's position or I'm not."

You're painting a picture that's false. I don't know whether it's from lack of knowledge, or just your just being a hypocrite. For someone that is always attacking Bart Peterson, Julia Carson, and others, for ethics violations to turn a blind eye (either through ignorance or a willful dismissal of the evidence)astounds me.

The reason everyone is pissed with HRC is a lack of integrity. They added gender identity to their mission statement in 2001 and said they would only support transgender inclusive legislation in 2004. While running that line even up to now, they have people up on the Hill (since Oct. 4th) lobbying for passage of 3685, instead of 2015. At the first opportunity, they ditched the transgender community.

"Your suggestion that ENDA doesn't have a chance at passage in the Senate is way off the mark. It does have a realistic chance of passage there."

Name one person that has even suggested this. ONE. I've spoken to many people on the Hill who've told me that this doesn't have the votes, and won't be introduced this year because they don't even come close to having enough votes. But don't listen to me, I was the one that broke the story of transgender inclusion being stripped out... IN MAY.
http://transadvocate.com/civil-rights/the-t-isnt-silent-but-hrc-is.htm
Senate offices were telling us it would be stripped. We had folks like Mara Keisling, from NCTE try to poo-poo the information that we were hearing, but I also contacted some of my friends in other national GLBT orgs and they backed up what we were told in multiple Senate offices.

Even Barney Frank has said this is a symbolic vote. The hate crimes bill passed by ONE VOTE and it has much more support by Republicans. There is NO WAY this passes the current Senate. It won't even be introduced.

"And I don't for a minute presume President Bush would veto ENDA. Second term presidents have a tendency of thinking long-term legacy. Don't write W off just yet."

Are you serious? Please tell me you're not serious. Gary, he's said he's going to veto the HATE CRIMES BILL, and he vetoed S-CHIP!

Do you really even believe your own words? Are you up for a wager? If the bill is passed in the Senate, I'll walk around the Circle at lunch time wearing a placard that says "I'm a jackass (insert Democratic symbol here), and I was wrong and Gary was right" along with your url... or anything else you'd prefer on it. I know I'm correct here, as I've been writing about it and investigating it for the past year.

Advance Indiana said...

Marti, you have trashed HRC at every turn. There isn't anything they could do that you would applaud.I've dealt them my share of criticism from time to time but, on the balance, HRC has had a positive influence on GLBT rights in this country.

Advance Indiana said...

And Marti, Last time I checked Bush hadn't repealed an executive order providing similar protections for federal workers.

Anonymous said...

Gary, you're right--Bush has not repealed his executive order.

But he--or SOMEone-- has instructed the AG and IGs at all departments, to spend their time on more, uh, "productive" issues. Like wiretapping us without subpeonas. (Which means, ex post facto, in many cases, without probable cause that would stand up in FISA court) (or a kangaroo court, for that matter)

But I digress.

It distresses me to see good folks disagree on basic civil rights issues. HRC does not have a sterling record on these issues, but it's got a good record. They have placed boots on the ground when it comes to local and state laws being deliberated by legislative bodies. They have employed staff and lawyers to help explain tough issues to decision-makers.

Perfect? Far from it. But HRC is a verifiable and strong civil rights organization.

And here's an ugly ltitle truth, and a confession: the transgender portion of this debate has been a difficult sell for me, a gay adult. I'm there now, but I didn't get there initially or quickly. Sorry, Marti, I guess that makes me a flawed human being.

Or, I'm guessing: I'm exactly like 435 House members and 100 senators.

Time is your ally, Marti. It's a very tough issue for some. I've done my part--I've written my legislators. Sen. Lugar's office sent the mealiest-mouth response I've ever read. I have yet to hear from Rep. Carson or Sen. Bayh.

And every time I get the chance--with coworkers, friends, family--I explain the trans issue and its importance to the overall picture. Marti, you have to know, that the raised eyebrows I get, are indicative of society's view on this subject.

That does not make all or any of us bigoted or insensitive. Mostly, or at least in my case before I came around, it makes us ignorant of all the facts.

My advice to the trans communtiy, worth exactly what you paid for it: chip away. Bit by bit. You'll get there.

And try to be a little more tolerant and sensitive to those who either don't agree or don't share your passion.

More flies with honey, darlin...

Marti said...

"Marti, you have trashed HRC at every turn. There isn't anything they could do that you would applaud.I've dealt them my share of criticism from time to time but, on the balance, HRC has had a positive influence on GLBT rights in this country.:

Gary, that is a smear. I've supported them in the fight for the Matthew Shepard Act... because they followed through. Again, you're big on integrity unless it's someone that you see as an ally. I only want them to do what they say they're going to do. They've said that they are fighting for the GLBT community for 6 years, but transgender activists have had to fight them to actually follow through.

You've been a huge critic of Indiana Equality in much the same way I've been a critic of HRC. As far as whether or not HRC's been a positive influence... that's for history to decide.

Really, do you feel so weak in your position that you rely on ad hominems? If I hated HRC so much, I probably couldn't call Donna Rose, a former HRC board member, a friend. I can appreciate what she tried to do. I don't think everyone at HRC is evil. I simply believe that they, as an organization, should stand up for those they say they advocate for.

You up for the wager?

Marti said...

"And here's an ugly ltitle truth, and a confession: the transgender portion of this debate has been a difficult sell for me, a gay adult. I'm there now, but I didn't get there initially or quickly. Sorry, Marti, I guess that makes me a flawed human being."

I hardly think that makes you a flawed human being. I don't denigrate people simply for disagreeing with me.

"Time is your ally, Marti. It's a very tough issue for some. I've done my part--I've written my legislators. Sen. Lugar's office sent the mealiest-mouth response I've ever read. I have yet to hear from Rep. Carson or Sen. Bayh."

The studies that have been done by HRC and NGLTF both would suggest you're wrong, if that "some" you're talking about is the American electorate. 70 percent of Americans (78 percent in the HRC poll) support transgender work place discrimination protections. Even when transphobic language was used in the NGLTF poll, a majority still supported it.

"My advice to the trans communtiy, worth exactly what you paid for it: chip away. Bit by bit. You'll get there.

And try to be a little more tolerant and sensitive to those who either don't agree or don't share your passion."

Are you speaking of my treatment of Gary? I like Gary, and respect the hell out of him. But in this, I just find he's being disingenuous and inconsistent.

Anonymous said...

Geeeesh, Marti, wake up...yeah, i was talking about your treatment of Gary, and your overall tone.

Scroll up.

"But you're either very ignorant or being very dishonest."

"Again, you're big on integrity unless it's someone that you see as an ally."


Last time I checked, calling someone ignorant and/or dishonest, qualifies as pretty hateful.

All these organizations have their good and bad moments. Hell, IE sat around on its hands until the last few weeks of the SJR7 vote, and claimed credit for bringing some corporations to the table, when I am absolutely certain at least one, Cummins, came not because of IE, and in fact spoke up almost in spite of IE. They rushed pretty fast to get in front of that train when it looked like SJR7 might lose.

I think they've gotten their act together now, but they were our "voices" when the Speaker mentioned, in Sept. 06, that he might change his mind and allow a vote. Because his caucus demanded it. Riiiiight. They still think, and IE evidently agrees, that they lost control of the House three years ago because of this issue.

IE exists almost exclusively to benefit two persons--its paid lobbyists. Its mission sometimes works. HRC has its faults, too, as is the case with many similar groups.

It sounds like you're doing what many of us did in the last Indiana legislative session: ignore the so-called "spokesperson" group, and lobby directly, on your own.

Pound for pound, it's the most effective method of lobbying. IE rarely speaks for me, and HRC doesn't always speak for me.

Marti said...

anon 9:30, you said "Last time I checked, calling someone ignorant and/or dishonest, qualifies as pretty hateful."

If you made a right wing Media Matters that focused on Indiana left-wing politics, that would be this blog. I like that regardless of the ideology. But in this case he either doesn't know the reality up on the Hill, or is being dishonest. I'm not sure how pointing that out is somehow hateful. Gary is one of the few Republicans I like. :)

The rest of what you've said, I agree with 100%.