Gay Democrats upset by Howard Dean’s retooling of the DNC should remember to focus on election wins.
Gay, gay, gay. Gay dinner parties, bars parades, books, movies and friends. Just when I’d had enough, it hit me.
Friday, August 13, 2004
IMAGINE YOU’RE A gay man working in a computer factory in Wisconsin. Year
after year, you’ve been the star employee. Your exceptional productivity
earned you promotion after promotion and raise after raise.
Now, there’s a new boss. He doesn’t like the way you gesture and
the way you walk. You simply act too much like a woman, he tells your co-workers.
And he says as much when he fires you and has security guards escort you out
of the building.
Your lawyer is anxious to take him to court. Indeed, Wisconsin law protects
an employee from being fired because of his or her sexual orientation. However,
in court, the company’s lawyers parade a line of lesbian and gay employees
before the jury. And in each and every case, the men “act like men” and
the women “act like women.”
You were fired not simply because you were gay but because you didn’t
conform to “norms” of your gender.
The court decides in favor of your boss because Wisconsin offers no protections
based on gender identity or expression. Only California, Minnesota, New Mexico,
Rhode Island and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly prohibit
discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression as well as sexual
TRANSGENDER AMERICANS FACE horrific discrimination every day, just as devastating
as the example of the Wisconsin factory worker. Frequently, an employee who
goes through an important and life-altering gender transition is fired.
And sometimes, the harassment of transgender employees is tolerated by the
boss while other forms of harassment are handled swiftly.
The bottom line is simply that neither today’s employment discrimination
laws nor ENDA as currently written meet the needs of protecting everyone in
our community whether we’re transgender, gay, lesbian or bisexual.
That’s why the Human Rights Campaign has for years supported the inclusion
of gender identity and gender expression in the Employment Non-Discrimination
Act, a crown jewel of our community’s legislative goals.
At a time when President Bush is trying to divide Americans over gay marriage,
we know that unity is one of our greatest strengths.
Since joining HRC in January 2004, I’ve met with dozens of our community’s
leaders, including transgender leaders, members of Congress and other advocates
in Washington and around the country to talk about ENDA.
With reintroduction expected in January 2005, I wanted to do one thing: listen.
There is broad agreement on the goal: passage of ENDA that includes sexual
orientation and gender identity and expression. The question has always been
about how we get there as quickly as possible and there is understandably some
concern that adding gender identity or expression could delay passage of the
But in this case, it’s about ensuring we pass a bill with the sharpest
teeth possible. Congress moves very slowly on legislation and we need to make
sure the bill our allies introduce in January is as fresh and inclusive upon
enactment as it was at introduction.
PASSING ENDA WITHOUT gender identity and expression is like passing a copyright
law that covers books and television shows but doesn’t cover digital
music or videos.
But ENDA is about people’s lives, not MP3s or DVDs. That’s why
it’s so important that we have the strongest and most comprehensive bill
In early August, HRC’s Board of Directors took the historic step of
adopting a policy that HRC would not support a version of ENDA that doesn’t
include gender identity or expression.
This isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s the pragmatic thing
to do. We’re supporting a modernized and comprehensive bill that gives
full protection to all of our community.
Yes, they’ll be more education to do and our lobbying team has been
working on that for years. In fact, recent polling shows 61 percent of registered
voters and 85 percent of registered GLBT voters support workplace protections
for transgender people.
This is a moment of great pride not only for HRC but for our entire community.
In speeches around the country, I’ve said that we’re living in
the best of times and the worst of times: historic victories and unprecedented