Follow workers.org on
RED HOT: TRAYVON MARTIN
AFGHANISTAN, FIGHTING RACISM, OCCUPY WALL STREET,
PEOPLE'S POWER, SAVE OUR POST OFFICES, WOMEN, AFRICA,
LIBYA, WISCONSIN WORKERS FIGHT BACK, SUPPORT STATE & LOCAL WORKERS,
EGYPT, NORTH AFRICA & MIDDLE EAST,
STOP FBI REPRESSION, RESIST ARIZONA RACISM, NO TO FRACKING, DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION, ANTI-WAR,
CUBA, CLIMATE CHANGE,
JOBS JOBS JOBS,
STOP FORECLOSURES, IRAN,
IRAQ, CAPITALIST CRISIS,
IMMIGRANTS, LGBT, POLITICAL PRISONERS,
Grassroots revolt against trans exclusion from federal job bill
Published Oct 13, 2007 8:08 AM
When the Democrats are the minority in Congress, they promise “a chicken
in every pot” if voters elevate them to the majority. Once the Democrats
hold numerical sway on Capitol Hill, however, many hopeful activists learn the
hard way that their goose is cooked.
In a Sept. 27 back-room maneuver, House Democratic leaders cut transgender
people out of the H.R. 2015, known as the Employment Non-Discrimination
Act—ENDA. The wording in H.R. 2015 would have made it illegal to bar
employment or promotions or to fire a worker based on sexual orientation or
The new version—H.R. 3685—deleted protection against discrimination
based on “gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other
gender-related characteristics of an individual.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Rep. George Miller, who chairs
the House Education and Labor Committee where the House vote would have taken
place, were behind the move to jettison this crucial job protection. Rep.
Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a gay man, had the unenviable job of trying to
sell the sell-out, relying on the language of Machiavellian pragmatism.
More teeth were also removed. The new bill excluded state and local governments
from requiring domestic partner benefits.
In a statement Lambda Legal explained, “This version of ENDA states
without qualification that refusal by employers to extend health insurance
benefits to the domestic partners of their employees that are provided only to
married couple couples cannot be considered sexual orientation
And it exempted religious-based employers—from hospitals to
universities—from federal compliance.
However, even if H.R. 3685—ENDA-lite—had passed it was still
considered only a symbolic vote, since a veto from the White House was a sure
The bill in different forms has floated in the ebbs and flows of Democratic
control of Congress and the White House since 1994. In 1996, when ENDA was
first voted on in the Senate, it ran the gauntlet of yea’s and
nay’s alongside the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
DOMA won and ENDA failed. DOMA barred any federal recognition of same-sex
Democratic President Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton made common
cause with notorious anti-gay ideologue Jesse Helms to win passage of DOMA, and
Democrats may have been unprepared for the firestorm of protest the Sept. 27
move to drop transgender from ENDA ignited. On the day of the announcement that
gender identity had been stripped out of the bill, nine national lesbian, gay,
bisexual and trans organizations united in opposition.
The groups included Pride At Work (AFL-CIO); Parents, Families and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; and the National
Center for Lesbian Rights. Even the National Stonewall Democrats broke ranks
with their own party to unite against the ENDA exclusion.
Angry individuals fired off a barrage of letters and emails to congressional
Activists set up 24-hour protests outside Pelosi’s and Frank’s
offices on the West Coast and East Coast respectively. Pelosi was targeted by a
demonstration outside her appearance as a feted guest of honor at the Human
Rights Campaign national dinner on Oct. 6.
Within days, it was clear that HRC—which describes itself as one of the
largest LGBT civil-rights organizations in the United States—was refusing
to unite for transgender inclusion. Donna Rose, the only trans person on its
Board of Directors, publicly resigned on Oct. 2 as a result. More resignations
More than 90 national and state LGBT groups signed a letter that was
hand-delivered to congressional representatives on Oct. 1. These groups include
the National Black Justice Coalition, International Federation of Black Prides,
Mautner Project, National Youth Advocacy Coalition, American Institute of
Bisexuality and BiNet USA.
More than 150 organizations announced in an Oct. 15 news release that
they’d formed United ENDA—a united front to win a fully inclusive
The National Organization for Women issued its own news release, stating that
it joined with “hundreds of civil, women’s and human rights
organizations” to demand passage of the inclusive ENDA bill, H.R.
Nancy Wohlforth, co-president of Pride At Work, summed up, “Transgender
people face the highest rate of unemployment in our community and it would be
unconscionable for us to sit idly by and see them stripped from this important
piece of federal legislation.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality stated in a 2006 survey that 57
percent of trans people polled reported job discrimination and 60 percent
earned less than $15,300 a year.
The ENDA vote is currently stalled in the House Education and Labor Committee
as the Democratic leadership regroups in the face of unprecedented unity for
job protection for transgender, transsexual and intersexual workers.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE