Bil Browning

Breaking: HRC board issues statement on new ENDA policy

Filed By Bil Browning | March 25, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: employment non-discrimination, gay rights, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, transgender, United ENDA

Hot off the presses and presented without commentary since I know y'all will have plenty of opinions...

The HRC board announced a new policy on ENDA today:

HRC Board ENDA Policy


It's the policy of HRC that the organization will only support an inclusive ENDA. In 2007 House leadership informed us that there were insufficient votes to pass an inclusive bill, so they decided to vote on a sexual orientation only bill. We made a one time exception to our policy in 2007 because we strongly believed that supporting this vote would do more to advance inclusive legislation. We will not support such a strategy again. We look forward to Congress sending President Obama a fully inclusive ENDA for his signature.

What do you think, Projectors?

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I think they got their reasoning from the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore.

Well, this is what a lot of people have been asking for. They might deserve a bit of slack after this, but it's important to keep in mind that they are only coming back in line with the policy they issued five years ago. And the policy that PFLAG, NGLTF, and various state organizations set up a decade ago.

I'll also offer kudos for avoiding the easy option for history revision and admitting that there action in 2007 was in opposition to existing HRC board policy.

Yet it's worth mentioning that offering kudos for not rewriting history and making a commitment to follow their own policy shows just how low my expectations for them have fallen. I'll take them off my personal list of top 3 anti-trans organizations, but they are no where near my top 100 trans-positive organizations.

For all the rolling eyes I'm sure this is causing, let's also applaud the policy. Whether we like it or not, the HRC is the first group lawmakers concerned about their LGBT constituents look to for guidance. I could do without the continued insistence that they did nothing wrong during the 2007 ENDA debate, but I'm satisfied that with language this forceful, it's unlikely to happen again.

Wait a minute, your link leads to a 404 error. If I go to I can see a link to this statement, but following it says "Bad Request (Invalid URL).

I'm guessing they are having technical difficulties, but I can't help but become a little paranoid that they are going back on their word again or getting cold feet about making such a public statement.

I fixed the link, Tobi. Sorry about that. I got it over Facebook and didn't realize the link didn't translate.

Ahh, I can see it now. Interestingly though, the hrc news page still has the same bad link.

Hmm, I just went back to the HRC news page to see if the link was fixed and instead of being fixed it was taken down. It's not in the news archive either. I'm still guessing technical difficulties, because your link is still working, but I'll feel a lot more comfortable when I can see it linked to from their page.

Outstanding developement!!!!
From the standoint of Lesbian activism, this is the key to ALL Lesbians being covered.

Still think HRC is terrible. For me it's never been just about their terrible track record on trans issues, as if this statement addressed all of those issues anyway...

we got what we asked for, which is cause for celebration! let's thank them and help them stick to this new commitment.

kathygnome | March 25, 2009 6:37 PM

Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hand.

Again? That trick never works!


woooorrrrddd..chica. word.


What a great final comment here for me. I honestly could not think of a better exit comment. Been surreal, yall.

signing off, and running off the the North Woods to live out of a small hut on some coppiced land.

this is one hell of a big deal.

Its a very critical step that was needed a LONG time ago, and I for one am quite thrilled to see it.

However there is nothing to assure us that if the same information comes to them again, that they won't make the same judgment -- and that thought comes because they say a lot, but do little. Especially given their information was incorrect.

Like many of my peers, I gave them 90 days to come clean. Doing it 18 months later is too little, too late, on an emotional plane.

I am thrilled they did this -- its the first step to healing the rift they caused through their now acknowledged betrayal.

They have begun doing a great deal, laying the groundwork for things to happen in 2 to 4 years.

But until they get something solid that makes a difference now, they are still going to be climbing uphill because of their past actions.

I wish them luck. And stick by what I said when they betrayed us.

Like many of my peers, I gave them 90 days to come clean. Doing it 18 months later is too little, too late, on an emotional plane.


I can't help but think of my monthly emails asking them what was going on. I kept them up for about six months, only receiving public statements dodging the question or refusing to answer if this was a repeal of their policy or a one-time departure from it. Then I stopped recieving responses at all. That took an emotional toll that this announcement doesn't erase.

It's much easier to make such a statement now, with a supportive president and larger dem majorities in congress. If a vote on ENDA gets pushed back until after the next election and the majorities were to change, the only reassurance I have that they won't betray us again is their word -- and we had their word back in 2007 too.

Like you said, I wish them luck and hope this creates tangible change that we can get behind. This is a big turnaround and a good beginning, but right now it's only a beginning.

I dont work with HRC, I don't trust them or their exdir, or their political staff. If it's true, that is good, but we can't let guard down. You don't need hrc to call your Congressman, do you?

The devil is in the fine print who will they consider to be Trans that is the question!All of us the TG folks and the TS folks or just the TS folks? So im not jumping for joy til the fine print is out!

In thinking about this, and the larger question of HRC-Trans relations, I think that an excellent way of expressing how transfolk is to say the following:

HRC no longer gets the benefit of the doubt.

Most transfolk will give individuals, even organizations, a chance (many, for example, are as fond of NCTE as they are of HRC) -- provide that benefit of the doubt to them.

THe HRC has lost that privilege, that degree of allowance for minor screwups. THey did it in a big way as well -- when I said in a different thread that the ENDA debacle was Stonewall for transfolk, I wasn't exaggerating.

Transfolk are more united against the HRC than likely anything else.

And as a result, they have an enormous amount of work to do to regain what has been lost.

In terms of a relationship, the HRC is the partner you broke up because they cheated on you that still goes around telling people that you are still a couple.

They may be earnest, but they have a really hard road ahead of them, and only have themselves to blame for it.

Words, as nice as they sound, are just words. We've heard it before and last time they remained (presumably) valid policy for all of ten days. I want to see more, a lot more, before I will even consider taking these words at face value.

If HRC is for truly real this time, here's what would help to convince me:

1. An ongoing open and honest public discussion of ENDA and related issues where average non-Beltway-connected LGBT's can participate.

2. Transparent positive political action on trans issues in which HRC accepts a support, not leadership, role. In other words, transpeople and orgs tell HRC what we need from them and HRC acts and uses its resources to help get the job done as WE think it should be done.

3. A significant transgender representation in its leadership and decision-making process. Inherent in this would the understanding that working around that portion of the leadership (as in the case of Donna Rose) would be unacceptable and considered to be a betrayal of that commitment.

That's just the basics, I'm sure others can think of many more. Yes, the standard is high, but it has to be. This is an organization which knowingly and actively squandered whatever credibility it once had with our community, and therefore to begin earning it back (assuming that's possible) the price will be correspondingly steep. HRC dug themselves this hole and so they will have to put just as much effort into climbing out of it.

Meghan Stabler | March 25, 2009 9:21 PM

There are some that will, because of history, blow this off or keep HRC in a wait and see. I know where I am, where I have been, and were some of my detractors said that I shouldn’t be. But I, like others, have been working. Take the statement as it is written, talk to board members if needed, talk to local steering committee members, or call me. If you don’t believe in the statement, or still wish to be cautious, no worries, you are entitled to feel that way.

Over the last year both I, HRC staff, and others have continued to work on Transgender projects that have included lobbying for I-ENDA, workplace education, CEI improvements, religion and faith programs, and many other related and inclusive programs.

During my time on deck as a leader and Business Council member I NEVER sensed a feeling within HRC that they would talk one thing and action something different. Sure there is history, perceived intentions, and disbelievers in the blogosphere, but I never wavered in my volunteer work to get equality. In every meeting with the board and also with staff there was always a commitment to an inclusive ENDA.

As we entered a new year, with a President that was welcoming to pro-LGBT legislation I engaged in conversations with board members running up to the board meeting in March. I posted a comment on Bilerico just after the March meeting that everyone unanimously was committed to seeing ONLY an inclusive ENDA, it was written in the materials for lobby day and even on a printed book mark. That commitment within HRC has remained the same since my first conversation back in early 2008. The last thing that I asked for was a written statement of commitment, they did it and you have it. Take it with your proverbial “pinch of salt” or whatever you want, history that is still to be written will shine the light on the road that was traveled, and I have fully realized the path that I am on and the fellow travelers that I walk with to gain full Transgender equality.

Kathy Padilla | March 26, 2009 10:55 AM

Thanks for the offer to follow up with you on this Meghan. Others may have asked these questions - if so - excuse me.

Part of the problems with HRC's last policy was that they didn't commit to opposing non-inclusive legislation - why doesn't this new policy address this important concern?

Will HRC join United ENDA?

Why wasn't this policy announced more publicly - perhaps by someone with credibilty on the issue speaking for HRC?

Can HRC accept that they can't be the sole leaders on this issue given their troublesome history?

Never, Meghan?
Try being one of the Lesbian activists pushing for any number of the issues critical to Lesbians concerning healthcare and medical outreach to a population that dies of treatable diseases and reconsider that statement.

Laura Hart | March 26, 2009 1:35 PM

When you say in March, do you last March or earlier in this month? You can take this with the same or bigger "pinch of salt" but rumor has it that HRC's lobbyist this summer were saying that they would prefer a inclusive bill but getting any ENDA would be satisfactory. If this is true then at a time with maximum leverage (re-election time), what was being asked for was any old ENDA. Maybe you know yourself or can find out how valid or invalid this rumor was. I strongly hope invalid but I doubt it.

As I read HRC's statement what I see is HRC taking a stand when it appears there will be no price to pay for doing so. Things look very good in the House, no sure thing but very good. What will HRC's policy be if or when it goes to the Senate where 60 vote majorities will undoubtedly make things far harder?

Its going to take a whole lot more then this wishywashy statement for HRC to gain kudos from the trans community as a whole.

Laura Hart | March 26, 2009 1:50 PM

After all the damage was done, didn't HRC come out with a policy statement that said they would support only an inclusive bill but if their allies on the hill wanted to support the SO only bill it would not be held against them? Why should we praise them for pretty much the same policy statement only without directly stating the probably still true qualifier? What am I missing here?

Everyday Transperson | March 27, 2009 1:52 PM

"During my time on deck as a leader and Business Council member I NEVER sensed a feeling within HRC that they would talk one thing and action something different."

I guess not, since the majority of those who sit on the HRC Business Council come from corporate America and thus all have the same corporate "bait and switch" mindset...........

Obviously you haven't spoken to very many everyday non-management GLBT employees at companies who have been stepped on and royally pushed to the side by these "GL" corporate business "leaders" in exchange for corporate "sponsorships" to HRC. Oops sorry, I forgot that the CEI index protects them each year with 100% ratings.

Sure the ENDA statement is a good thing, but is HRC going to issue similar statements calling for an investigation into the questionable 100% CEI Index ratings which disenfranchise trans employees ??? Or how about a statement about after its support of a fully inclusive ENDA, whether HRC is going to hold companies accountable for their discriminatory policies of trans employees ???

I didn't think so........I guess that would upset the apple cart of all of the corporate "perks" and travel freebies that the business council members apparently currently enjoy from each other.

I'll believe it when I see it. They said that at SoCo too, just a month or two before they worked with Barney Frank to drop us and actively lobby for the non-inclusive version, and then actually punish legislators who insisted on an inclusive version. Words don't cut it this time.

Until they actually prove it and make the stand, I'm done bashing them and am just ambivalent about the HRC, just as I don't have a lot of time for any top-down managed organizations with that same kind of paternal, patronizing, "leave everything to us, we know what's best for everybody" kind of attitude.

No more lip service from them, no more snark from me -- just prove it when it counts.

"Only support" is a bit different from "will oppose any other form"

As a Lesbian activist, this leaves me uneasy still. Too many of my sisters will be dependent upon protections that are wholly predicated upon an inclusive form of ENDA.

We have a solid and unified cause with trans-people on this issue...we will go back to our routine mutual bloodletting after we achieve a joint victory on this one....

As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. It's nice that they've put the policy in place, but I won't trust them until they've show a pattern of lobbying that is truly trans-supportive.

I'm crossing my fingers, but I'm not holding my breath.

I am glad to see HRC making thisstatement of policy. That being said, what Joe Solmonese said at Southern Comfort in 2007 'as a matter of policy' that they would to support only a fully inclusive ENDA and then the actions of HRC less than a month later leads me to only one conclusion:

I'll beleive it ONLY when I see a fully-inclusive ENDA signed into law by President Obama.

Sorry, HRC, I don't trust you again. I really do want to but given your track record, I just cannot - yet.

talk about a slow learning curve...

Whether we choose to believe HRC or not (I'm in the believe-it-when-I-see-it camp, the fact remains that we must and should not count on HRC to get this over the top with inclusion. I'm sure Meghan and others have helped in HRC's understanding, and I appreciate her efforts. Time will tell if they really worked. But I'll ask this question: how bad do you want it?

For now, we can all agree that the phones must be lifted, the lobbying must be done, that everyone should send faxes and emails, that Members of Congress should be met both at home and in DC by as many T people as possible, as well as their spouses, partners, allies, and families. Even if you trust HRC's words, which I don't, there is no substitute for the T community getting the word out there themselves.

There are 2 Lobby days coming up, NCTE and NTAC. Come to one or the other or both. Visit your elected officials at home, if you cannot. Come to DC independently if you wish. But, whatever you do, open your trap and don't just let others (HRC or not) lobby for you. Ignore HRC and get out there and speak for yourselves. Speak up or forever hold your peace.

Angela Brightfeather | March 26, 2009 1:29 AM

I have no doubt how much my continual pushing for a vote from the HRC board and a public statement following that vote has helped to push this present announcement. Last week I noted my interaction with Maddy Goss here in NC, once again pressing for a public statement. That all being said, I am willing toaccept this statement as at least the present gospel of HRC with one proviso.

I have been asking for a vote of the BOD on this and I trust that Meghan and others who serve with HRC can expalin the reason for the statment besides it's the right thing to do, and how and why it came about. there is nothing inn the statement that says it comes fromt he BOD or that it came from a vote of that ruling HRC body. I would deeply appreciate the details. I find it very hard to believe that in an organizationlike HRC this all came from and ingter-office memo penned by Joe Solomonese. so I respectfully ask that Meghan or another representatgive from HRC give all of us some idea of the source of this statment and some oof it's history. I also find it hard to believe that there wasn'gt some amount of discord in the process. I would be happy to hear it was a unanimous vote and I think it is very important that some of these details are related to all of us. I would also like to know the role that Trans people inside of HRC palyed in obtaining this statement, if any.

For the sake of unity and the upcoming ENDA negotiations, I welcome the chance to coordinate efforts with HRC in obtaining an inclusive ENDA. I will hold both my appreciation, which I will be happy to send to HRC in a formal letter, and my cooperation, pending Meghan or even Joe Solomonese himself, letting us know on Bilerico and other sources, some of the details invovled in coming to this very welcomed decision.

It is my feeling right now, as I have said before, if a statement like this came from HRC, I think it would go a long way in helping all of us to turn our attention more diretly to achieving an inclusive ENDA without having to look over our shoulder all the time. I beleive that for HRC to back away from a statement like this one, or try and reverse it, would mark the eventual end of HRC as a voice of authority in the GLBTQ Community and they would not risk that and the loss of support that they would have to face.

As to it b eing to late, it's never to late to do the right thing. I think that HRC needed to understand what they had to lose in this process and that their original action had a longer lasting impact on their support than they anticipated.

I congratulate everyone who has picketed outside the HRC dinners, wrote letters and hung in there for the last 18 months, lobbied at home and in DC and did everything they could to impact HRC and others, and convince them that "We aren't going away". To all those who I call friends and have been fighting for inclusion in ENDA since we marched together in DC in '93 and pledged to each other that while we may have been left of the name of that march, we would not be left out of ENDA, I say thank you. We may not be there yet, but this statement from HRC represents so much. Literally hundreds of thousands of hours of activism from people who have refused to quit, and the fact that we are now that much closer really means a great deal.

Now Meghan, if you or Joe can fill us in on the details, I would be very willing to listen.

I'm glad to see the change and applaud it -- and I'm waiting to see if their actions match their words. As others have said, HRC has lost the benefit of the doubt -- ENDA was the trans communities' Prop 8 moment -- and they're gonna have to earn it back.

So -- to invoke one of the few Reaganism I agree with -- it's a case of trust but verify.

Obviously, they're the 800 pound gorilla on the Hill when it comes LGB (and maybe T) issues, so it's good to (we think) have them on our side, but even if they come through, let's not rely on them to get things done.

BTW, I will give kudos to everyone -- trans and non-trans -- who made it clear to HRC that what they did wasn't acceptable.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 26, 2009 4:10 AM

When the right wing tells HRC to march it's ten steps to the right. When HRC senses there’s a leftward radicalization underway it's one timid step left.

Duly noted. Duly Dismissed.

Now we can get back to the business of creating a LGBT leadership independent of the right wing Democrats and for the interests of working class GLBT folks.

During my time on deck as a leader and Business Council member I NEVER sensed a feeling within HRC that they would talk one thing and action something different.

You never sensed "a feeling" that they would talk one thing and do something else? Despite all those times that they, you know, actually did talk one thing and do something else?

As it stands right now, HRC is following the exact same playbook they always have: talk inclusion until the time actually comes to pass legislation, then use trans provisions as an easy bargaining chip to toss away.

Here's a radical idea- how about assuming they're acting exactly the same way they always have until the point when they actually do something different? As it stands right now, there is no actual evidence that HRC is done trying to be Lucy with the football to the trans community's Charlie Brown.

Like Polar, I am a wait-and-see person. I admit that I have screamed for the last year for their trans supporters to get them to write this statement, and it happened. "If you can make a difference, then show me." They MAY have made a difference.

However, like Becky says, these are just words so far. Again, we see them talking the talk, but we've never seen them walk the walk. Those of us who know how to use the English language to our advantage, we understand the power of words. ENDA will not be a reality until the President's signature drys on the law, and some of my friends are holding a pen.

Personally, I will still not donate to HRC and I can easily say that TAVA will not work with them until they show more concern for our veterans. Meghan, are you listening? I know Allyson is.

bigolpoofter | March 26, 2009 9:47 AM

How nice of HRC to join the Queer masses in the 21st Century! In the words of Travis Tritt: here's a quarter, call someone who cares.

Christine Benjamin | March 26, 2009 9:48 AM

Let's see if I have this correct -- "We made a one time exception to our policy ...." So when it becomes politically expedient for HRC to make another exception, it will do so again. HRC will just label it a new strategy, not the old strategy it abandoned inasmuch as it proved to be a dud.

HRC carefully worded its pronouncement to allow it wiggle room to change its mind when it deems it politically expedient. No admission it made a mistake in 2007. No unequivocal promise not to jettison gender in the future.

Had McCain won in November, would HRC have changed it's position this week? Not likely.

And what exactly prompted the policy change two years ago? ENDA with or without gender had no chance of becoming law under Bush.

As I have said before, HRC gave up its position of moral courage when it threw a portion of its constituency under the bus. I have no reason to believe they would do it again.


I'm glad that HRC has changed their mind. I know that mistakes can happen. We all know that they threw the trans people under the bus before, more than once. I also know that times do change and hope that the organization has changed. I still don't trust them. I guess it is time to wait and see how they represent us in the future.

I've seen nothing but good from HRC recently. What they just did was necessary for healing.
Necessary, but not sufficient.

If they admit now that the 2007 incident was a blunder, let them restore the ratings of those congresscritters who voted against ENDA because it was exclusive.

Do that, and I'll believe them. Don't do it, and I'll have to assume it's just more words, to be jettisoned the second it's inconvenient. Just as Joe S's words were jettisoned after SoCo.

Frankly, HRC's words, and its solemn word are meaningless now to me. What has impressed me are its actions. Such as the help they gave in the recent Gainesville fight. Such as their (promised) changing of the rating system. Deeds, not syllables without substance.

Given enough time, trust can be restored. But only by an unbroken series of acts that show that trust would be justified. Their words are just sounds and patterns of pixels at the moment. It will be some time before they're anything else, even assuming they are now trustworthy and genuine. We're accumulating evidence for that now, they deserve encouragement to continue, but there's still a ways to go.

I do think that now it's starting to dawn on them just exactly what the consequences of their "pragmatism" were. Had Joe S not made his commitment at SoCo, there would have been significant short-term damage, but the HRC's actions would not have been seen as a betrayal. A "regrettable incident", a "misjudgement", even an "error", but not treachery. Not a betrayal of trust.

Nice statement. Didn't their board make a similar one in 2004 and then Joe S. made another one at southern comfort in 2007?

Alex, that's exactly why we're skeptical. We've seen and heard this before, in the case of some of us all the way back into the mid 1990s. I've also seen such statements blow up. It is best to lobby as if their help is unexpected, and their hindrance still possible.

It's the policy of HRC that the organization will only support an inclusive ENDA.
.... but won't oppose an exclusive one. Message received and understood. No change in policy, that's what was said initially in 2007 too, just before they went even further.

I had to read the statement carefully. I suggest everyone try to nail down HRC on this one, to get a commitment that they'll oppose an exclusive ENDA. Not that we can believe such a commitment, as they gave one once before, and broke it.

Personally, having read too many court cases, I think nothing but insertion in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act will do. ENDA's a compromise, and is now too compromised. I don't think insertion in Title VII would face significantly more opposition than ENDA does, most don't see the difference.

I agree, Zoe. Simply adding gender identity and sexual orientation to Title VII would be much preferable to ENDA as currently drafted, given its nearly 45 years of case law to back it up, which would remove many of the questions that inevitably arise with any new piece of legislation.

Janna Chan | March 29, 2009 7:53 PM

Dear Meghan:

Perhaps you can pass this question along to the HRC council members and board members you know:

Do all HRC board decisions come with a "one time exception" clause?