Revised ENDA bill drops “Transgender” in LGB(T) protections

Oct 8th, 2007 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Revisions in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) call for excluding gender identity from a bill banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The revision was based on political expediency and the fear that including gender identity would result in the death of the long-awaited legislation.

The solution inside the Washington DC wind tunnel is to dump gender identity in the hopes that ENDA would pass. The revision has caused a split among LGBT activists and civil liberties groups.

On one side are those who see stripping gender identity as a necessary evil in order to pass the nation’s first jobs protection bill for homosexuals in America. On the other side are those who see it as a sign of betrayal by those who want to appease conservatives and right-leaning Democrats.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said removing gender identity keeps the Employment Non-Discrimination Act “as it has historically existed, banning discrimination on sexual orientation.”

Frank said he will urge the Committee on Education and Labor to “proceed with our next step, which will be to continue the educational process that I believe will ultimately lead to our being able to add transgender protections.”

Frank reportedly went on to say that “there is more resistance to protection for people who are transgender than for people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual.”

Simply put, we’ll come back to get all those transgender people later.

The new version does not prohibit an employer from excluding domestic partners from health insurance benefits while providing those same benefits to the spouses of heterosexual employees.

Rep. Frank is taking a lot of heat but he is not without his base of support. For example, Washington DC-based blogger John Aravosis, who publishes Americablog.com, rushed to Frank’s side in an opinion published by Salon.com.

John Aravosis“A lot of gays have been scratching their heads for 10 years trying to figure out what they have in common with transsexuals, or at the very least why transgendered people qualify as our siblings rather than our cousins. It’s a fair question, but one we know we dare not ask. It is simply not p.c. in the gay community to question how and why the T got added on to the LGB, let alone ask what I as a gay man have in common with a man who wants to cut off his penis, surgically construct a vagina, and become a woman,” Aravosis (left) writes.

Similar support is expressed by Chris Crain who publishes the blog Citizen Crain. He says the time has come and gone to pass ENDA.

“Still, it’s gratifying to see mature political leadership willing to make the compromises needed to move the ball forward,” Crain writes.

Aravosis asks “why transgendered people qualify as our siblings rather than our cousins.” I had to read that boneheaded statement a couple of times over to see if I fully understood what the hell he was trying to say.

Our transgender “cousins” as Aravosis would call them where the ones who kicked open the door for equal rights for all of us – even for gay white boys like Aravosis who want to keep their penis. Gender identity is at the very root of the gay rights movement. The Stonewall riot in New York and the Compton Cafeteria riot in San Francisco were acts of resistance that marked a turning point for the transgender community and they ushered the human rights struggle that still continues to this very day.

Gays and lesbians are oppressed by straight people who see an effeminate gay man or a masculine lesbian and make assumptions based on that person’s gender expression. Gender identity IS a gay and lesbian issue. To exclude it from ENDA is to forget who we are and were we come from.

Removing gender identity “diminished the bill not only by excluding transgender people – a consequence we oppose in itself, the cut also made the bill far weaker by denying protection of the earlier version to those who may not identify as transgender but who are discriminated against because they are perceived as gender nonconforming. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals frequently are perceived that way.” – Letter from Lambda Legal.

Read the entire letter sent to Rep. Frank from Lambda Legal. – October 4, 2007.

“You can’t be fired for being lesbian, gay or bisexual, but you can be fired if your boss thinks you fit their stereotype of one.” – Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director at Lambda Legal.

Joint statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and the Transgender Law Center

We see three significant problems with this weakened version of the bill:
1. Protections for transgender people were removed.
2. Definitions of who is protected by the bill leave gaping loopholes so that no one will be fully protected against discrimination.
3. The blanket exemption for religious employers is broader than the exemptions in other civil rights laws and leaves many workers with no legal protections.

In addition to the missing vital protections for transgender people on the job, this new bill also leaves out a key element to protect any employee, including lesbians, gay men and bisexuals who may not conform to their employer’s idea of how a man or woman should look and act. This is a huge loophole through which employers sued for sexual orientation discrimination can claim that their conduct was actually based on gender expression, a type of discrimination that the new bill does not prohibit.

The new version has a blanket exemption under which, for example, hospitals or universities run by faith-based groups can fire or refuse to hire people they think might be gay, lesbian or bisexual.

“Even without a trans provision, some Capitol Hill observers have said the bill, while expected to pass in the House, would likely encounter a filibuster in the Senate, requiring supporters to line up 60 votes to pass it. If the bill clears that hurdle, observers say, it remains unclear whether President Bush would sign or veto it. Should the president veto the bill, as he has said he will do with the hate crimes measure, the bill would likely be shelved until 2009, following the November 2008 congressional and presidential elections.” – The Washington Blade.

Excluding gender identity is not an option.

Will ENDA be divided?

According the the Transgender Law Center over 55% of all employed persons have “reported experiencing employment discrimination.”

For more information:

http://www.transgenderlawcenter.org

or

http://www.tgsf.org



PrideDEPOT.com editor, independent journalist & LGBT media spokesperson,
Jody May-Chang now writes on "As I See It...Reporting from the front lines

As I See It Jody May-Chang.com Reporting from the front lines


3 comments
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  1. I stopped reading Aravosis’ blog some time ago when I was one of several people who had their comments deleted and ISP blocked simply because we failed to agree with him. He has the heart of a Log Cabin Republican with a limited narrow view of queer culture and history.

  2. I have long thought Aravosis to be a bit behind the times, now I know why: he’s a simple bigot.

  3. This guy is an elitist gay man. He has no compassion or understanding of what is like for the rest of u. For him to talk about what is right for LGB people is like people in the Hampton’s saying they understand what it is like to live in poverty. Arivosis just does not have a clue.