Friday, 28 December 2007

ENDA the line - Part III - The Debacle

Following on from Part I and Part II....

In our last exciting episodes , we asked the questions "Would Barney Frank really follow through, or would he find a way to make it "Gay Only"? GLB, without the T?" and "Would the Human Rights Campaign really champion rights for the Transgendered, or throw them under the bus like every time before?"

I tried writing the whole story, with cross-references, but Bob Roehr, a professional journalist at the Bay Area Reporter did it far better, and far more succinctly, in his article summarising the year's events. Here is the extract in question.

ENDA didn't get rolling in the House until after Labor Day, with a
hearing on September 5. All hell broke loose a few weeks later when
openly gay Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) floated a
trial balloon to remove protection for gender identity. Transgender
advocates had fought long and hard to gain that inclusion.

Soon, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights
group, was the subject of withering criticism when the board
flip-flopped from a stated promise to support only a trans-inclusive
ENDA and voted instead not to oppose the sexual orientation-only

Strong opposition from the LGBT community to Frank's proposal seemed
to catch the Democratic leadership by surprise, forcing them to
reconsider. A scheduled vote on the measure was delayed several times
as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) convened meetings with
gay rights groups and members of Congress. The trans-inclusive
coalition that came to be known as United ENDA grew to more than 300
state and national community organizations.

But in the end, Pelosi, who was the subject of a protest outside her
district office in San Francisco, decided that enough Democrats were
fearful of voting for trans-inclusive legislation. A stripped down
bill containing only sexual orientation was moved through committee
and on to the floor of the House, which passed the more limited
measure on November 7 by a vote of 235-184.

Seven northeastern liberal Democrats voted against ENDA because it did
not include trans protection; 25 conservative and Southern Democrats
voted against it because it was too pro-gay. Again, the margin for
victory was supplied by 35 Republicans.

The bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate. It is not clear
whether the sponsors will choose more limited or trans-inclusive

But wait, it gets worse. here's Barney Frank again on the debacle:
"At this point three important pieces of legislation to vindicate our rights, or – there have been three votes: two in the House and on in the Senate saying, "No. It's wrong to mistreat people because of their sexual orientation and with regard to hate crimes on their gender identity."
Did he really mean that mistreatment of transgendered people is acceptable as long as it doesn't rise to the level of "hate crime" - violence that instils terror in the victim class?
That doesn't yet become law. It does mean this, and I'm confident of this: If in 2009 people who are pro-LGBT win the presidential election – I wish I wasn't partisan but right now that means the Democrats – and we have a couple more Senators who are pro-LGBT, they you're going to see, I think, by the end of 2009 the Employment Non-Discrimination Law will become law. It will be illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation anywhere in the country.
Yes that's right, there are no plans to include the Transgendered. They can still be fired. But maybe it was a mis-statement, maybe he meant to include the transgendered.
A hate crimes law including protection for people who are transgender will have passed. And we will be, at that point, well on our way to try to extend this to people who are transgender and to getting rid of the ban of gays in the military."
No, it seems not, he mentioned transgendered people as having (and by implication, deserving) a lesser degree of protection. And of course it's all conditional on his party getting more seats than the majority it already has. He's pre-emptively surrendering, just in case there might be enough votes to win this time.

Any bets that transgendered rights will wait until after Gays and Lesbians (but not the Transgendered) will be accepted into the US Military? And then after the repeal of the "Defence of Marriage Act" which attacks legal gay marriages in those states that allow them? Then maybe more important business, like naming post offices, or increasing subsidies for "friendly companies", or any of the thousand and one things deemed more important than transgendered rights in his home state of Massachussets.

As for the HRC - they seem genuinely bemused by the reaction. They backstabbed the transgendered many times before, and no one said a word. What's so different now?
Transgender people have always been part of our community. We have marched together, been brutalized together and embraced each other in the hardest of times. Usually, it is transgender people both transitioning individuals and gender nonconforming gay and lesbian folks who are on the front lines. They are the first to be fired, the first to be rolled into a ditch for kicks, the first to be humiliated in ways large and small each day.

For years, transgender leaders have been adamant that protection based on "gender identity and expression" be incorporated into the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
Two years ago, our board voted to include transgender Americans in our mission. In December 2002, the HRC board of directors voted to support inclusion of protection based on gender identity and expression in ENDA. They reaffirmed that vote unequivocally just two weeks ago.

Since December, our team of professional lobbyists has done yeoman's work, advocating with everything they've got to make this specific change to ENDA. This work has been done passionately, using every imaginable moral and legal argument that was developed by a working group of transgender leaders, community litigators and HRC staff.

Make no mistake, in our hearts and minds, the boards and staff of HRC are committed to including and protecting the transgender community. We will leave no one behind. As we continue on this odyssey, we are searching for a pragmatic, just and timely key that will unlock the door for transgender civil rights and protections.
That was HRC. In June, 2003.

HRC - like many foodstuffs - is now 100% Trans-free. Their only Trans director, Donna Rose, resigned when presented with incontravertible evidence that she was being systematically frozen out of the decision-making. Their other "token tranny" soon followed, when the evidence came in that he was being systematically ignored too, his requests for information met with silence.

Now they have issued a plan to restore their credibility, one of whose items calls on HRC Human resources to at least consider the possibility of hiring transgendered applicants - thereby admitting that currently they don't. There's no hint about "making amends" or having any change to the substance, just the PR image.

They genuinely don't see the problem. Fortunately, over 300 GLBT groups do. So maybe we won't have to wait till long after 2009 before the issue gets re-visited. The first step in that is to withdraw funding from the incompetent and/or mendacious HRC (pick any two), and the next step is to get the quiche-eating surrender-monkey (who suffers from premature capitulation) Barney Frank to retire at the point of a ballot-box. Neither task will be easy.

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