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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OutFront Minnesota on ENDA

From their ENews:

ENDA Update

On Thursday, the Labor and Education Committee in the US House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the non-transgender inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) (HR 3685). Because Congress has heard from thousands of Americans who support a fully inclusive bill protecting GLBT people from discrimination, many Representatives do not want to pass a bill that is not inclusive. Your calls and emails have paid off. As soon as the United ENDA campaign sends out information about Thursday's vote, we will send an email out to all of you.

OutFront Minnesota supports a fully-inclusive ENDA bill not only for its public policy importance but for the impact the process has on our entire community.

In the early 1990's, OutFront Minnesota worked with legislators and leaders around the state in the It's Time Minnesota campaign to pass Minnesota's GLBT non-discrimination law. Before the bill passed in 1993, some people thought the legislation would have an easier chance of passing if the transgender protections were removed. The people working to pass the legislation did not weaken the bill because it did not make sense to move a bill forward that did not protect all Minnesotans from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Once legislators understood the bill and grasped the importance the bill had to the people in their district and across the state, they voted to pass the fully inclusive bill. Because of the great work of people working for GLBT equality over fourteen years ago, Minnesota became the first state to pass a comprehensive GLBT non-discrimination bill. Let's ask our Congress members to allow the rest of the country to have the same protections we do.

Here are some other reasons OutFront Minnesota has joined the United ENDA campaign opposing the a weakened ENDA (HR 3685):

*HR 3685 does NOT provide sufficient protection against discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. Not only does this bill completely fail to protect transgender people, but it also fails to protect lesbians, gay men, bisexual, and straight people who do not conform to gender stereotypes.
*HR 3685 includes a sweeping religious exemption. Under this version of ENDA, tens of thousands of hospital and university employees would NOT be protected.
*HR 3685 allows discrimination in the provision of employee benefits. Under this bill, employers could provide benefits to families of straight employees and not to families of GLBT employees.
*HR 3685 will undermine state efforts to pass inclusive legislation. The trend in state legislatures over the past five years has been to keep gender identity in civil rights legislation - the last seven states to pass these laws were successful at banning discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. We have been able to do this because we refused to back down on the need for inclusion - but if Congress passes HR 3685, it will send a powerful and negative signal to state legislatures. We do not want to turn back the clock on equality!
* HR 3685 is morally and strategically wrong. Not only is it morally wrong to leave part of the GLBT community out of this bill, but it is also strategically wrong. We have learned from our work in the states that it is far easier to include gender identity in civil rights legislation the first time it is passed than it is to try to go back and add it in later.

Stay tuned for more updates and action alerts!

And finally, here are some thoughts from our Operations Director, Sian Nelson:

As a transgender woman, I have felt some real, personal distress at having the door closed in my face by supportive, but pragmatic, politicians and some pragmatic Washington GLB movers and shakers. Really, though, isn't that what always happens?

Well, not this time...

... this time, over three hundred GLBT organizations have signed onto the United ENDA letter and campaign willing to forego any bill rather than have one that splits our community. How unexpected and wonderful for this to emerge from the usual wheeling and dealing! I believe it was completely unlooked-for, as much by transgender people as by the many mainstream GLBT organizations who found in this a rare and important opportunity to speak their values aloud.

The distress I feel about those supportive politicians and pragmatic GLB movers and shakers, well, it's pretty minor, given this outpouring of support - and the chance to get some publicity, finally, about the appalling level of unemployment among transgender people.