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LGBT State Org Betrays ENDA, Carries Anti-Gay Talking Points

Jim Burroway

June 17th, 2009

In a stunning backstabbing move, the egregiously misnamed group “Indiana Equality” has issued a statement carrying the talking points of anti-gay groups and have decided to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act: Here’s a statement from IE’s chair, Jon Keep:

Indiana Equality believes that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities should be engaged in a national dialog about the need for full inclusion in the federal Civil Rights code. There is a window of opportunity now that may not come for another generation. If we push for less than full inclusion, it may be more difficult to motivate public support for full civil right protections. We should not ask for less than we need.

Anything less than full inclusion is unacceptable. Accordingly, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (END) as currently proposed, cannot be accepted, supported or promoted by Indiana Equality.

It has become evident that adding LGBT persons to local and state civil rights laws is not only possible but crucial. Adding only the right to employment at the Federal level will do little to protect the civil rights of all citizens.

Adding LGBT persons to local and state civil rights laws is crucial. But that doesn’t preclude going ahead with laws that address employment issues on a national level. ENDA does not — as Indiana Equality and other anti-gay groups claim — produces a new level of segregation. The act simply bans employment based on sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Which means that straight people are protected from discrimination by their gay employers.

If that’s not inclusion, then I don’t know what is.

This is extremely important legislation. People really are being fired and encountering other forms of employment discrimination solely because of their sexual orientation. Transgender people are believed to need these protections more than anyone else. This is real legislation aimed at solving a real problem.

IE says they are doing this because they want a more comprehensive civil rights bill. Fine. Let’s begin laying the groundwork for a more comprehensive bill now and maybe we’ll get one in the next five or ten years. But let’s not, in the meantime, cap the knees on an important piece of legislation that lawmakers are prepared to vote on this year!

But Indiana Equality has put itself fully in league with Focus On the Family, Family Research Councils, and all other anti-gay groups who will latch onto IE’s statement and run with it. See? Even gay groups don’t want this. IE’s game is a complete betrayal on one of the more important pieces of pro-equality legislation to enter Congress.

[Hat tip: Bil Browning]

Update: IE’s link appears to have moved. I’ve updated the post to re-link to IE’s statement again. It does not, however appear to be a permanent link. Therefore I’m copying the statement below.

Indiana Equality Statement on LGBT Civil Rights Protections
May 16. 2009

Indiana Equality believes that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities should be engaged in a national dialog about the need for full inclusion in the federal Civil Rights code. There is a window of opportunity now that may not come for another generation. If we push for less than full inclusion, it may be more difficult to motivate public support for full civil right protections. We should not ask for less than we need.

Anything less than full inclusion is unacceptable. Accordingly, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (END) as currently proposed, cannot be accepted, supported or promoted by Indiana Equality.

It has become evident that adding LGBT persons to local and state civil rights laws is not only possible but crucial. Adding only the right to employment at the Federal level will do little to protect the civil rights of all citizens.

It is the beginning of a new era, and many state organizations have proven that ‘better’ is attainable. Just as the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for full civil rights inclusion, LGBT persons must expect full protections and rights.

A Realistic View of ENDA
Clearly, ENDA doesn’t make us equal – rather, it creates a new form of segregation. It does not provide protections in housing and public accommodations. There are no protections for LGBT children in the public schools where administrators continue to turn a blind eye to harassment and brutality. With ENDA, we are only marginally protected in the workplace.

LGBT citizens have a unique opportunity today to secure full civil rights protections. Thus, Indiana Equality believes that:

  • State level efforts to have fully inclusive civil rights language added to state codes could be adversely affected if ENDA, as currently proposed, was to be enacted
  • Incrementalism on civil rights has rarely succeeded
  • LGBT people are de facto second-class citizens, but a bill to secure only one civil right for us would treat us, de jure, as different from any other minority–and effectively second class
  • We now have an unprecedented opportunity to push for full civil equality, protecting our individual liberties and our families in the areas of employment, housing, education, and public accommodations
  • Creating a separate coverage for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression sends the message that these classifications are somehow less worthy than others of protection and support

Indiana Equality urges a national discussion regarding of the need for full inclusion in the federal Civil Rights Act. What we need is what we should seek.

Comments

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CPT_Doom
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

I think you’re missing the point – they want full protection in employment, credit and public accommodations, which are covered by the Federal Civil Rights statutes. ENDA as current conceives only covers employment, which means places like restaurants or hotels could still have a “no fag” policy and not be legally liable.

I don’t know if this move is right – as employment protections are the most important of those included in federal protections, but I get why they are doing it. Asking for rights piecemeal assumes we are not as deserving as other groups.

Jim Burroway
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

I added a paragraph, probably while you were writing your comment. The paragraph that covers that thought is this:

IE says they are doing this because they want a more comprehensive civil rights bill. Fine. Let’s begin laying the groundwork for a more comprehensive bill now and maybe we’ll get one in the next five or ten years. But let’s not, in the meantime, cap the knees on an important piece of legislation that lawmakers are prepared to vote on this year!

mgh
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

I have to say that I find your point wholly disingenuous.

How is this any different than those who were saying that they opposed ENDA when it wasn’t trans-inclusive? That wasn’t joining FOTF — and neither is this.

For the record, I don’t see anything in IE’s statement about “segregation” that would ally them with anti-gay groups, and so I’m not sure your characterization that seems to undergird your entire post is fair.

Jim Burroway
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

IE’s link appears to have moved. I’ve updated the post to re-link to IE’s statement again. It does not, however appear to be a permanent link. Therefore I’m copying the statement to this post.

mgh, you’ll find the characterization of “segregation” in the post now. There is a huge difference between this bill and the previous one which was deeply flawed, since it failed to address the population which most experts acknowledge to be most in need of employment protections. This bill closes that gap. The difference between opposing this bill and the previously fatally flawed bill is like night and day.

wtf?
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

this has to be one of the most twisted and demented mis characterizations that i could ever fathom.

i remember when i was a little kid and my mom told me the story of the three little pigs. even then i realized that you can build something fast and half-assed, or you can build it to last.

ENDA is half-assed. an inclusive civil rights code will last

rac09
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

Does the current version of ENDA include anything other than employment? Why can’t we have a simple statement that includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in the US Civil Rights Code? Is that so hard to find sponsors for?

And I challenge people to explain how this bill is anywhere close to passage??

Juan Ahonen-Jover
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

Here are several things to consider:

1. ENDA does not cover other important protections that people usually associate together with employment: public accommodations and housing, and credit (financing). They are in our minds because of are part of civil rights legislation.

2. Even a trans-inclusive ENDA will be separate legislation from the civil rights protections for employment (and other areas). Although I am not a lawyer, I have discussed it with attorneys experts in employment and this has significant consequences. Separate legislation does not make us equal.

3. The different versions of ENDA proposed in the last Congress offer significant exemptions for religious organizations and small organizations. These exemptions go beyond the exemptions that apply to groups protected under civil rights legislation.

4. ENDA is less encompassing than legislation presented in 1974-75. Under the promise of getting something, that legislation has been watered down year after year. Thirty-five years later, we have nothing, despite all the efforts at de-crementalism.

For all of the reasons above, I believe that Indiana Equality has shown tremendous vision, leadership, and courage in pointing out that ENDA is not enough, nor appropriate (since it is a separate statue).

So, in my personal opinion, the issue is not whether Indiana Equality is right about ENDA not being enough. The real discussion is whether we take a little bit now (i.e., a trans inclusive ENDA) or fight for more (i.e., an expansion of the civil rights legislation).

A point that some people bring up against expanding civil rights legislation is that it is problematic. In fact, this legislation has been expanded multiple times.

As we all know, the movement went through the discussion about getting something now vs. waiting for a full inclusive ENDA in 2007 and 2008. I think that it is safe to say that we have reached a clear consensus that we are not leaving anyone behind and that we will all support only a trans inclusive ENDA. We know that our will will be tested in the Senate, where it seems, we may not have enough votes.

Then the question is not about Indiana Equality, but is about do we ask for full civil rights or we take a watered down ENDA (but trans inclusive)? This is an important discussion that we should all have.

Here are some points of reference in that discussion.

First, as a co-author of The Dallas Principles (www.TheDallasPrinciples.org), here is Principle #3: “ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY: Every LGBT person has the right to economic opportunity free from discrimination in employment, public housing, accommodation, public facilities, credit, and federally funded programs and activities.”

Second, there is already a grass-roots movement, The Power Online, asking for signatures to be delivered to Nancy Pelosi at the end of the month. The petition says: “To expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and all its subsequent revisions and codifications to declare it the public policy of the United States that discrimination based on LGBT status is prohibited.”

I invite you to sign that petition at http://www.thepoweronline.org whether you will settle for an inclusive ENDA or you want to raise the bar to the rights we really deserve, just like everybody else. No more, no less.

Respectfully,

Juan Ahonen-Jover

mgh
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

my point re: segregation is conceded, and I apologize for my comments regarding that.

still, I don’t think it’s that much different to say that the bill is any more “deeply flawed” when it leaves out a part of the LGBT community than when it eliminates the most important swaths of civil rights applicability.

first, it’s not accurate to say that trans individuals are “most in need” — in fact, there are more federal protections for trans individuals because of the way that sex discrimination laws have been interpreted to provide protection in many instances for trans individuals (see, e.g., the ACLU’s Library of Congress case).

and second, employment is just a smidgen of the scope of civil rights laws. this does nothing for credit, housing, public accomodations, or any other of the myriad aspects of life that civil rights laws apply to.

you may be more happy with this type of flaw than the other type of flaw, but I don’t think you have a leg to stand on to say that one type of “drawing a line in the sand” is any more principled than the other.

mgh
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

I just want to highlight for people (even having made the comments I already have) that there is NO CHANCE that the civil rights act will be amended to just add sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

There is a real and legitimate fear that if the civil rights act is opened for amendment that a lot of bad stuff will be added in.

They would rather add a new, SO/GI/GE only law that duplicates existing law than risk real damage to the existing laws. That’s a very common legislative tactic, and I think it’s legitimate.

Jim Burroway
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

That is the point I want to return to. I do not object to the goal of comprehensive civil rights legislation that includes LGBT people. But where has anyone even begun to lay the groundwork for it?

Here is just one example of the problem we face with changing the Civil Rights Act. Right now, if we pursue such a change, we will run into a buzzsaw from many (but not all) African-American leaders who already chaffe at the idea that LGBT rights are civil rights. They are already angry about that, saying that we are “highjacking” their civil rights legacy.

The idea of changing the Civil Rights Act is dead today, dead next year, and for quite some time to come. Even if we begin now to prepare the groundwork and the agitation, such legislation is years, possibly a decade away.

Do we really want to give ENDA a pass for protections now, versus the hope that maybe we can get broader civil rights protections ten years from now?

And if we know we would have to wait many years in order to get broader civil rights protections, why not do both? IE’s statement sets up the false choice that this is somehow either/or. It’s not. Get ENDA now and simultaneously begin the hard work of getting Congress geared up for broader civil rights protections as soon as that becomes viable.

Yes, ENDA is half-assed, as one commenter put it. So is repealing DOMA, DADT, and passing hate crimes legislation. All of these things individually are half-assed, and none by themselves will bring us to full equality.

But right now, it’s all we have. What IE is doing is making the perfect the enemy of the good. If we were to follow IE’s logic, maybe we should drop the fight against DOMA, DADT and Hate Crimes legislation and put all of our chips into the Civil Rights Act. Does anyone really believe that this makes any sense given where we are today?

mgh
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

all of your points are conceded, but you’ve not answered my main question: why is this any more “making the perfect the enemy of the good” than not supporting a trans-inclusive ENDA?

of course IE will be happy to see this legislation pass — but can’t we shoot for higher?

John
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

Ultimately the only thing that is going to officially end de jure discrimination in the United States is a constitutional amendment banning discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equal Rights Amendment that would have banned discrimination on the basis of sex went down in flames in the ’70s. It hasn’t been resurrected, but as a result of other legislation, most forms of sex based discrimination are now illegal in the United States.

I don’t think we are going to get 2/3 of the Congress and the states to vote for an Equal Rights Amendment today. So we are stuck with various types of legislation that we can get through. One builds on the other.

I think that Indiana Equality may be right on one level to say this isn’t enough, but I would say, “YES, I WANT THIS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. NOW WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO RECTIFY ALL THE OTHER FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION THAT I HAVE TO FACE IN THE COUNTRY!!!”

Timothy Kincaid
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

all of your points are conceded, but you’ve not answered my main question: why is this any more “making the perfect the enemy of the good” than not supporting a trans-inclusive ENDA?

mgh,

Perhaps you don’t recall that this site was not universally opposed to ENDA even in its flawed non-trans-inclusive position.

We pointed out that California, Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Washington DC all passed sexual orientation protections before gender identity, which was added later.

rac09
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

By the way, is this a strategic strike, since it now seems the Barney Frank is about to reintroduce ENDA next week? Maybe if “leadership” at the top would stop holding all the cards, others can more effectively participate in the discussion. We’re not just an army that marches when ordered. That much I’ll concede to the sheeple in the rightwing movement.

Mark F.
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

It is not anti-gay to support the absolute right of freedom of association. I don’t feel I have a legitimate “right” to compel someone to employ me against their will. This so-called “civil right” is nothing more than the “right” to use force against someone who would rather not employ you.

Perhaps we can add a section to ENDA that would prohibit employees from discriminationg against employers because of sexual orientation. If I can force an employer to employ me, maybe an employer should be able to force me to work for her.

Jim Burroway
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

Mark F.

Here is the text of the bill as proposed last year in the House. This year’s bill will be introduced next week, but it’s modeled after last year’s bill.

You are raising a strawman argument. Where in the law does it compel anyone to employ you against their will? Please be specific.

Alex Blaze
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

I was googling for various ENDA related things, and this post came up. I feel your pain, Jim.

It’s such a bad idea to scrap a bill that’s been around forever and has had so much work put into it to instead support a fantasy-land bill that just doesn’t exist and would be nearly impossible to get through. You want to turn off the Congressional Black Caucus, who are one of our best allies in the House, to us? Fine, but don’t expect to get anything passed.

Sure, it’s half assed. The first Civil Rights bills for African Americans were too. And for women. And they were built upon to get to the state they are at today. The last time job discrimination laws were strengthened was in 2009 with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. And they could still use some tweaking as there’s still plenty of job discrimination against women and racial minorities.

Are we in this for the long-haul or are we just going to demand perfect protections and not do the work necessary to get there? ENDA is a first step and a very important first step. There’s a reason FOTF and CWA and other homophobic groups are going to tie up the phone lines at the capitol opposing this bill: they know its passage spells the beginning of the end for them.

In the meantime, we’re caught up in whining that it’s not enough to justify our time. Not like DOMA… oh, wait, Congress won’t even introduce a bill to repeal DOMA unless we prove that we can get a bill like ENDA through. I wouldn’t expect them to put themselves on the line for something unpopular like DOMA repeal if this is the reaction they can expect from this community for something popular like ENDA.

And about transgender exclusion, since someone asked: that’s completely different. Excluding people from the bill is a divide and conquer tactic, plain and simple. Trans folks were there since the beginning of the movement, and we move forward together. Transgender people need those protections, and some would argue that they need them more than us. Sure, a few states have gone back for the T-folk, but a few haven’t either.

But I’m looking at this bill from the same perspective as HRC and the National Center for Transgender Equality: we’re going to drum up so much support for an inclusive ENDA that no one’s even going to think of splitting it up this time around. The votes are there and there will be people in the community working to get them.

OK, that’s a long comment for a thread that most people won’t ever see… :)

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