Rebecca Juro

ENDA Update: HRC, LCCR Completely Turn Their Backs On Gender-Variant Americans, House To Vote On CripplENDA Tomorrow

Filed By Rebecca Juro | November 07, 2007 3:44 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, Politics, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA, gender, GLBT, LGBT, queer, transgender

As many expected, the Human Rights Campaign, in concert with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and a few of its member organizations, yesterday effectively renounced its previous public promises and statements on the issue, and has now completely turned their backs on the poorest and most harshly oppressed segments of the American LGBT community by actively supporting the passage of the flawed and crippled version of ENDA currently being promoted by the House Democratic leadership, which is expected to be voted on tomorrow.

Appearing on the "Michelangelo Signorile Show" yesterday, HRC President Joe Solmonese was in full spin mode, unsuccessfully attempting to explain away the organization's support for "CripplENDA", the non-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, in direct violation of their vote in 2004 not to support or endorse any legislation that isn't specifically inclusive of protections for the gender-variant. Solmonese hemmed and hawed throughout the interview, claiming that he "misspoke" when he said in an address to nearly a thousand transpeople at the Southern Comfort Conference in September that HRC "...would not support and in fact, oppose any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive.".

In a letter to Members of Congress today also signed by LCCR, American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees, NAACP, National Education Association, National Employment Lawyers Association, and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, HRC turned its back on that promise, stating that:

"(We) express our support for H.R. 3685, the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007" (ENDA). ENDA would prevent most employers from firing, refusing to hire, or denying a promotion to any worker on the basis of sexual orientation..."

It's worth noting that out of the 192 civil rights organizations listed on LCCR's website as members, only 7 are listed as signatories to this letter, indicating that this action was apparently not supported or endorsed by over 95% of LCCR's own member organizations.

Among the amendments due to be considered is the Baldwin Amendment, which would restore gender identity protections back into the current bill. The amendment is reported to have been alloted ten minutes of discussion time on the House floor, but is not expected to be allowed to come up for a vote. House leadership agreed to the requests of freshman Democratic Representatives who asked for and received assurances that they would not be forced to vote on transgender rights because they felt it would hurt them in the upcoming election.

HRC also released the results of a of an October 26th poll in which one of the questions asked was:

“This proposal would make it illegal to fire gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers because of their sexual orientation. This proposal does not include people who are transgender. Would you favor or oppose this proposal moving forward?”

According to the Advocate, 70% responded in the affirmative. Given that the results of this poll are at odds with another HRC poll taken in 2004 which indicated that almost the exactly same percentage of respondents opposed such a bill, it's not surprising to me that no information as to the makeup of the respondent sample questioned or the polling methodology used has been offered. As Alex Blaze notes, one has to wonder if releasing these figures now indicates that HRC is trying to offer this poll as justification for reneging on its promises and choosing to now fully support the "CripplENDA" bill.

Reaction from gender-variant activists and allies against HRC and LCCR's divisive sellout tactics was swift and direct, among them NGLTF Executive Director Matt Foreman:

“Fundamentally, rights are not about popular opinion, and that’s why we so vehemently reject voting on the right to marry,” he said. “We shouldn’t just hold up our finger and test popular opinion at any one moment and say that’s the way we are going to go when we’re talking about fundamental human rights.”

Donna Rose, a transwoman who is a former HRC Executive Board member, resigned about a month ago in opposition to HRC's political games surrounding their advocacy of ENDA. She posted some choice quotes regarding HRC and their advocacy of the bill on her ENDA blog yesterday:

"I agree that the time has come for all fair-minded people to withdraw their energy, their money, their trust, and their support from this organization. I appreciate that some have taken a more refrained approach to both the organization and its motives but to continue any involvement at this point would be to deny the obvious."

"HRC rarely does things in a knee-jerk way so it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that this has been in the works for quite a while."

Questioning the validity of HRC's new polling numbers, Donna asks:

"Are you trying to tell me that the numbers shifted so substantially over these past several years? I think not. Joe should have done his homework before doing this because their own research and their own words from years gone by will come back to haunt them. Any shred of credibility left is gone."

Donna also writes:

"This strategy seems to be a direct contradiction of the board's directive to NOT support a non-inclusive bill as announced Oct. 2. The thing that few people realize is that there have been 2 board calls since the fateful board meeting a month ago, and the board essentially gave Joe the authority to make the decision to support any version of ENDA that he felt was necessary. And, he has."

As the only transgender person to ever hold a seat on HRC's Executive Board and participate in its administration from the inside, someone who insisted on taking a "wait and see" attitude on the organization and its advocacy of ENDA long after many in our community, myself included, had determined for ourselves that HRC was not honoring its promises nor advocating in the best interests of gender-variant Americans, as well as what my own personal experience with this woman tells me about the kind of person she is, it's my opinion that Donna Rose's credibility and the validity of her views on this are unassailable.

Basically, what the HRC Executive Board told Joe Solmonese is "We don't care if the bill is inclusive or not. Our promises to only support inclusive legislation mean nothing to us. Just get us a win, by any means necessary. That's all we care about". That right there should tell you everything you need to know about this organization and the people making the decisions there. While Solmonese may have been the actual trigger man, it was the HRC Executive Board supplying the bullets.

Can there really be any doubt anymore, no matter who or what you support? The Human Rights Campaign leadership are selfish, unabashed, unrepentant liars and political opportunists, caring little or nothing for anything other than securing rights and advantage for the most wealthy and politically popular minorities, and willing to do so at the expense of the most socially, politically, and economically disadvantaged LGBT Americans.

HRC has consistently lied to the community about its intentions and misrepresented the facts throughout this current ENDA effort, just as they have historically both before and after their pledge in 2004. Many of us who have been calling out the Human Rights Campaign for years on their duplicity have been called "radicals", "idealists", "unrealistic", and plenty more. I was even personally accused by HRC Executive Board Member and OurChart President Hilary Rosen in a discussion about HRC's advocacy of ENDA on OurChart of "living in the past". And yet, here we are. Pretty much everything HRC has been being accused of by transgender activists for years has now been proven over the last few months to be completely valid and accurate, right up to and including reneging on their much-publicized 2004 vote not to support or endorse legislation that is not inclusive of protections for the gender-variant.

Even many who once refused to support or fully subscribe to what we were saying have now come to understand that we were right all along, that whatever good HRC might have done in the past or might do now doesn't even come close to outweighing the bad, the willful and intentional lying, the misrepresentations, the breaking of promises, the facilitation and validation of anti-transgender sentiment in Congress, the advocating for legislation that would exclude the most oppressed and vulnerable and least politically potent minority groups to gain rights for solely the wealthy and well-connected more easily, all of it. I hate to say "We told you so.", but we did. There's no longer any doubt at all that we were 100% right about these people and about this organization all along.

Have we finally had enough NOW?

The Human Rights Campaign has now conclusively proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are not capable, willing, or deserving of being considered a leading organization of the American LGBT civil rights movement or of being considered credible speaking on the behalf of any segment of the LGBT community other than the ultra-wealthy and ultra-conformist who might have been protected should this bill have ever had the slightest hope of actually becoming law in the first place, which, of course, it does not.

Boys, girls, and everyone else, it's time for change in Washington, and not just in many of the politicians.

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This is an utter disgrace. I'm British and live in the UK but have been following this matter for years now. In my opinion, HRC members need to start leaving in droves, making it clear that this is in solidarity with transpeople. Well done, Donna Rose, but how tragic that she felt unable to continue her wonderful work with the organization. I'm so sad, I actually have tears in my eyes and want to swear, so I'll stop typing now and leave you with my love and support. Felix.

Thanks for the post and the update! But I must say that I like "SPLENDA" much better than "CripplENDA".

HRC is being pragmatic. If the ideal ENDA had a chance of passing, HRC would be supporting it!

Unfortunately, there is a thing called reality. There are several freshmen Democratic congressmen and women from conservative districts who could lose their seats over this issue, and these seats cannot- and should not- be sacrificed for one issue.

The organizations that signed this letter are taking the big picture into consideration, something a lot of gay and transgender activists seem to be ignoring. Equality is a lot more than ENDA or any other bill. It will demand a series of small steps and allies and decades of work.

I understand the frustration that people have regarding how Washington works. Sometimes it doesn't work! I urge people to fight for laws and ordinances in their own communities. Here in Key West, workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal due to local ordinances we passed at both the city and county level.

HRC can burn in Hell for all i care anymore.

I have already contacted and told everyone i know to contact their congressmen and have them vote against ENDA.

ENDA will be dead long before it reaches our dictator and chief's desk.

Take Care
Sue Eobins

It's beginning to feel like all the work put into getting a Democratic majority was all for nothing. Not just this, but other things....

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 7, 2007 3:19 PM

Unfortunately, there is a thing called reality.

Ian, you're right. And the reality is that Democrats consistently refuse to stand up for principle. They consistently capitulate to innuendo and threats and end up doing the Republicans’ dirty work for them.

In this case, Democratic elected representatives Barney Frank and Nancy "Impeachment is off the table" Pelosi hastened to gut ENDA before a vote could embarrass any transphobic lawmakers on either side of the aisle. They made it easy for the bigots. How different it would have been had Democratic lawmakers fought tooth and nail for an inclusive ENDA, only to be defeated by homophobic and/or transphobic opponents.

The Democrats as a party are pitiful.

It's hard to imagine a more pyrrhic "victory" for Barney Frank, HRC, and the Congressional Democrats than this futile piece of flawed legislation. Its craven compromises epitomize the many broken promises of the pseudo-Democratic Party and the straight-laced Washington Beltway lobbyists who dominate the Homosexual Rights Campaign. Absolutely no one predicts it will pass the Senate or survive a Bush veto. What ENDA actually marks is a watershed moment - the end of Barney Frank's credibility as Congressional leader of the LGBT movement and the public exposure of the HRC's betrayal of trans and gender variant people. Nothing they say will ever be trusted again.