Community United but Congress Not Delighted
There is a lot of history behind this momentous occurrence ... not the least of which is the revolutionary change in the LGBT community itself since the introduction of ENDA in 1994. It is almost unheard of today to leave out the "T" in LGBT. Inclusion of transgender in the struggle for human rights is standard. And it is definitely not cool to leave out gender identity and expression in legislation. Just look at the controversy over SONDA, the non-transgender-inclusive New York gay-rights bill, and contrast that to the universal accolades heaped upon New Mexico when they passed their trans-inclusive nondiscrimination and hate-crimes bills a few months ago.
So when several dozen national human-rights advocacy organization, and 40 or more statewide LGBT advocacy organizations all signed on to a pledge to support the reintroduction of ENDA with language to protect the entire gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, it was indeed the culmination of many years of advocacy and education. If one part of the community is left unprotected, none of us can feel that we are protected. If one person is denied freedom, none of us can be truly free.
The Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign is to be commended for giving the strong mandate to the staff of HRC to openly and actively advocate for transgender inclusion in federal legislation. Many of us might be tempted to add "What took you so long?" NGLTF, PFLAG and other national organizations have been there for years, and have actually pulled their support from ENDA because it was not inclusive. And Lisa Mottet from NGLTF has been one of the key organizers at both the local and national levels who have made this happen.
Make no mistake; this is a major milestone in our struggle for equality. For once the community is united.
For those of you who have not been involved in this process as I have, there might be a temptation to pooh-pooh the whole thing. In fact, I have already seen that exact sentiment, not phrased so politely, expressed by a leading gay political activist in Chicago. But Ive been there, folks. Ive been privileged to be working with HRC along with transgender leaders from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Transgender Law and Policy Institute and other groups. I have been witness to the negotiations that have taken place between HRC and the lead sponsors. There is no doubt in my mind that HRC is committed to transgender inclusion in federal legislation.
But what is the response from Congress? One would think that they would be excited that they are finally getting clear direction from the LGBT community and that their LGBT constituency is finally working together toward the goal. Unfortunately they have been slow on the uptake. It is likely that ENDA will be introduced in the same form that it had been introduced in the previous Congress.
There is serious talk now about a new legislative initiative. This would be the inclusive bill that everyone in the community wants and has been advocating for. It would include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. It would be an opportunity to go back and restore the scope of ENDA to the way it had originally been envisioned, before it was stripped down to an employment-only bill during the Clinton years. It is an opportunity to make it a better and stronger bill to protect all of us.
But ENDA has not yet been introduced in this Congress. There still is time to convince the lead sponsors to introduce an inclusive bill. It aint over till the fat lady sings, and lead sponsor Barney Frank has yet to sing his final aria. I would urge those of you who have connections in the Boston area to contact Franks office to urge him to include the entire community when he introduces ENDA this year.
Miranda Stevens-Miller welcomes your comments: .