08 November 2007

Employment Non-Discrimination Act

This has been a major issue among all major LGBT organizations, and among many politicians, over the past few months.

Currently, in about half the states, it is still legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and in about 3/4 of the states, based on actual or perceived gender identity. A federal measure to make this discrimination illegal was introduced in the federal House of Representatives, though some gay elitists, such as Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), forced the gender identity provisions to be taken out. Openly lesbian Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) did offer gender identity protection as a separate amendment, but that did not come to a full vote.

This week, the sexual orientation-only measure passed the House, though the Senate is not going to work on this until after the 2008 presidential race. And in any case, W has promised a veto, since he believes that protecting LGBTs from discrimination infringes on his base - the death cultists - and their destructive religious beliefs.

It bears remembering that without actual or perceived gender identity protections built in, any attempts to protect LGBs from discrimination will be a half-effort at best, since most LGBs are NOT discriminated against based on who they have sex with, but on their perceived deviance from prevailing gender norms. Only gays who look and act straight, like Barney Frank himself, will benefit; that's only 1/3 of the population, since most gays, especially in the lesbian community, look obviously "gay." Most larger gay organizations, including National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, have opposed the sexual orientation-only bill for this reason, and recently, even the elitist Human Rights Campaign has come around to agreeing with adding gender identity protections.

With the transgender community having neither the numbers nor the monetary clout (most transgenders are either unemployed or in poverty) to mount an effective lobbying campaign, it's up to the LGB community to recognize their own stakes in this fight, and lobby for an all-inclusive legislation, not the sham that just passed this week. I know this from experience at the California state level, where transgender employment protections languished for years at the indifference of many gay organizations - and the poll-watching politics of Governor Gray Davis. (Davis did sign the transgender protection law - only after he was recalled.)

It's bad enough that W has messed with the rights of transgenders already, by making all transgender marriages ineligible for immigration benefits, and by declaring that only the government can determine one's gender for affirmative action purposes. And of course, there is the upcoming REAL ID act which will make life hellish for many transgenders. If the Democratic Congress isn't willing to do much better, caving into the demands of white straight-looking gay elitists instead of the truly vulnerable, then things indeed look very bleak.

No comments: