Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

ENDA Postponement Trumped By Marriage Debacle, Again

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | December 03, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: employment discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, marriage, New York

It is 5 minutes to midnight on ENDA, with still a possibility of getting a vote this year if everyone pulls together, and what happens? Do we have LGBT and progressive media exploding with articles of protest and telling people how to lobby Congress effectively to get this moving?

Nope. Instead, a NY marriage vote that was known to be doomed sucks all the oxygen out of the room. The D.C. city council preliminary vote on marriage and a possible marriage vote in NJ are also in the news. But unlike most mornings when I crank up my Google machine, there are no news articles this morning on ENDA, anywhere. This despite the fact that the Committee that's supposed to mark it up announced yesterday that it's not on the schedule next week, which means that it's probably going in the deep freeze until February unless a miracle happens. As I've explained ad nauseam in previous posts, that is going to make ENDA harder to achieve.

Let me first say -- get on the phone and call the House Committee to help get ENDA moving again. It ain't over till its over, and you have to be in it to win it. Okay, now that you've all done that, let's drop the happy crap, and examine what happened to ENDA in 2009 to bring us from the assumptions of invulnerability surrounding its re-introduction, to today, when we are staring at its imminent placement in the deep freeze. This will help the LGBT and progressive communities realize how much more effort is really needed to pass ENDA.

I am pleased to say that I have been invited to discuss ENDA on the Michelangelo Signorile radio show on Sirius-XM this afternoon at 4:30 ET. I am not pleased to say that many more such discussions should have been out there months ago on many radio shows and websites and newspapers in the LGBT and progressive communities.

"We are on track to pass this bill in the House this year," said Representative Barney Frank on the day of ENDA's introduction, June 24, 2009. He also said that a hearing would take place in July. However, he also said that "obstacles still exist and LGBT activists need to continue to step up their lobbying for the bill."

Did LGBT activists and media step up their lobbying for the bill? I think some activists did, but I think that both activists and the media largely dropped the ball.

Relative to the volume of efforts and news on other issues, such as marriage equality, Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA, ENDA was almost completely drowned out. I have been tracking the news every day since June, when ENDA was re-introduced, and what I have seen is massive coverage of DADT and DOMA and little coverage of ENDA.

The reason that I dropped everything to start posting obsessively every day on ENDA is because I saw how low it was on the list of priorities, and given my expertise in workplace discrimination issues, I feel passionate about it. Let me tell you, entering the political fray is not that pleasant an experience. While many people were encouraging, there were also many who disparaged my efforts. I do, however, have a fairly thick hide and a poor memory, and both are important in politics.

Here's the news coverage on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act from 2007 to today. It was high in 2007, but then dropped precipitously from December 2007 and remained at a low level ever since. Of course, these are all news articles as measured by Google, and not just LGBT and progressive media, but it gives a sense of where things are.

Would we be in a different place today with ENDA if the media had written more articles about ENDA? The social scientist in me rebels at reaching such a rash conclusion. It may be that the larger LGBT and progressive communities aren't all that interested in ENDA, and the media follows the interests of its audiences. But whether the media soft-pedaled it, or the community was lukewarm, either explanation requires action in order for ENDA to pass in 2010.

While the House has the votes, the Senate does not, and the situation in the Senate is likely to get worse, rather than better, as time goes on. But one cannot create community, media and political interest by simply willing it. I believe that among the reasons for this lack of interest is the fact that those who are our leaders are drawn largely from the class of people who are not experiencing a high degree of job discrimination. I have read several comments made on gay media websites, as well as similar comments made to my face in person, to the effect that "my job is secure, so I don't have much interest in ENDA."

I do not know what will be required to change the focus to move ENDA forward. I do not know what will bring us together as a community on this issue. But I do suggest that failure to change focus and come together as a community will bring us more disappointments in the future.

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Great, blame New York. We should get ready to blame Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza while we're at it.

If they do to the quest for anti-discrimination law what marriage obsession has, then blamed they shall be.

Gay and lesbian people in New York have always sucked the life out of equality, unless it's their equality. NY is one of those infamous "We'll-Come-Back-For-You-Later" states, and as you can see, they have no intention of coming back for trans people until they get all of theirs first. If you're trans in New York, then "Fer-gid-a-bout-it!"

Jillian, I'm going to try to get the word best I can today!

I am totally behind ENDA, and I applaud your great efforts on this.

However, I do not think that the coverage of other LGBT issues, particularly marriage, denies coverage of ENDA. The fact is, that in the decade or more that the bill has been hanging around the US Capital, it has never received significant attention that it greatly deserves.

The marriage issue, support it or not, has captured the imagination of American media, and has always gotten big coverage. I have seen numerous occasions when on talk shows or in print articles about the marriage issue, when there will be a summary of other matters on the LGBT agenda. However, the individual matters rarely get much coverage, except for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Marriage and the military are matters that most significantly intersect the gay and straight communities, or at least the self-identities of many straight Americans in media audiences, and whose support is necessary on all the agenda.

At least the marriage issue is very much about visibility. Our opponents are most against visibility.LGBT visibility helps socialize America to the fact that we are everywhere, recognize our rights.

I think that we need to have pressure form others on the ENDA issue, from the various unions that support it, and other large supporters with clout.

Jillian said: I believe that among the reasons for this lack of interest is the fact that those who are our leaders are drawn largely from the class of people who are not experiencing a high degree of job discrimination. I have read several comments made on gay media websites, as well as similar comments made to my face in person, to the effect that "my job is secure, so I don't have much interest in ENDA."

Why do you insist on blaming everything but those US Senators that are anti-LGBT? I think even the suggestion that our community "doesn't care" about ENDA is absurd and wildly counterproductive.

There is plenty of room under the "gay umbrella" if the issue is equality and not the obsession with equal rights. They are NOT the same.

We invest ALL of our resources in the push for "special classes," or "protected classes" and we do nothing about "equality." The Movement train isn't completely derailed, but it's clearly on the wrong tracks.

No, I blame the anti-LGBT Senators too. But if all the pro-LGBT Senators were to put their cards on the table and come out from their hidey holes, we'd have more than enough to pass ENDA. Check my spreadsheet http://bit.ly/14TDll (but use your glasses this time.)

Thanks Jillian, I don't need glasses and I've seen your spreadsheet enough times. You suggest

52 Senators as YES Votes
45 Senators as "Unconfirmed"
03 Senators as NO Votes

Almost all of your unconfirmed are actually NO Votes. There is an outside chance you might get 3 more votes. That's 55. Game over.

All the calls and emails (and even colorful suggestions to the contrary) do not change that reality. Anti-LGBT beliefs are non-negotiable.

Plan B?

Jillian, you are just being selfish and self centered. Andrew is so very right that the concerns of a priviledged few men of homosexual desire are so very much more important than the basic issues of employment protections for ALL gender variant people.

Marriage tax benefits MUST come before keeping people working in tough economic times. Gays ought not be denied the tax benefits and it is so very selfish of you to demand attention for an issue that only affects trans-people......and butch Lesbians......and leather dykes......and fairy men......and.....and...

Sorry Maura,

But I never said anything was more important. It seems you are suggesting that. I think equality will cover all of us - nicely.

In this article Jillian is shaming/blaming the "LGBT Progressive Media" for not covering ENDA and instead paying attention to the NY SSM vote. Perhaps, she believes those 45 unconfirmed Senators listen to our media... in a closet. Somewhere. Over a rainbow.

It could happen.

I am disgusted, but not surprised that ENDA is going nowhere. However, I fail to see that the NY State legislature has anything to do with that.

I wasn't trying to say that the NY legislature interfered with ENDA, but rather that the LGBT/progressive media is largely covering that to the exclusion of ENDA.

Forgive me, but another close friend died last night, so I'm not in a diplomatic mood right now. What happened in New York is nothing more than karma. They intentially fucked over trans people about ten years ago with SONDA, and even lied to Silvia Rivera on her death bed. Their bad karma came back to bite them in the ass. Plane and simple.

Monica, I know their marriages are more important to them than our lives - and every time we lose another one of our number, it hurts - but the people who are suffering from the marriage vote are by and large, not those responsible for backstabbing us.

Two injustices never cancel each other out.

As the result of a back-room deal they don't deny, the NH Senate got gay marriage through only by getting the sponsors of the trans rights bill to vote against it, and by preventing it from re-consideration for 2 years, in a quid pro quo. But they did get the gay marriage bill through.

That kind of political horse-trading is odious, but at least *something* good came out of it. The problem with NY is that when GENDA was dropped from consideration, there was no good outcome. The bigger problem is that it appears that it still won't be considered until gay marriage rights are gained - and then they'll get around to it if they think of it, just as they will do one day in MA.

Don't paint all New Yorkers with the same broad brush, Monica. I was in Albany for the LGBT lobby day this year and, believe me, GENDA was getting much more attention from activists under 30 than marriage. So was the Dignity for All Students Act, for that matter.

It's outrageous that we don't have transgender protections yet, but many activists are working on passing GENDA just as hard as they are on getting marriage equality. So don't condemn us all.

One last thing - I don't think you're presenting a complete picture of the history of SONDA. It only passed 7 years ago and, when it finally came up for a vote in the obstructionist Republican Senate after being passed by the Assembly every year for a decade, LGBT activists tried to get transgender protections added back in, only to have the majority Republicans reject the amendment 19-41.

I think it says more about the f-ed up political system in Albany than about the dedication of LGBT activists to transgender protections. There are a bunch of ways that conservative, upstate areas are over-represented in the Senate - including counting inmates in rural prisons that can't vote as "residents" of those districts for re-districting purposes - which are going to continue to stymie passage of pro-LGBT legislation. Until there is fair representation, conservatives are going to continue to block GENDA, DASA and marriage equality in the Senate and thereby hold New York back.

Just my $.02.

I was generalizing for the affect. Yes, many GLB people have also been working hard for GENDA, but it appears that many are still not and only care about marriage. They are feeling the disappointment the trans community felt 7 years ago. Many of them were the architects of the SONDA win. The ones who do care about full equality for all LGBT people happen to be suffering from the "Sins of Their Fathers." The comments from Angela and Becky paint an even clearer picture.

I was in Albany last April too and, yes, GENDA and DASA were getting a lot of support then. Since then, however, what happened? All public notices and all public support from the governor, the legislature and the Empire State Pride Agenda has been for marriage equality only.

The only conclusion I can make is that ESPA, like the HRC, along with the politicians, is good at giving lip service to the gender variant GLB and straight communities while still being all too willing to sacrifice them to expediency in pursuit of an issue that would provide a much bigger payoff than inclusive nondiscrimination law.

Marriage equality has become a visibility issue, it's true. It's also the big money/attention issue for BOTH sides. Because of that, ENDA and all other nondiscrimination issues have had to take a back seat. The people with the resources to most heavily donate and work for GLB(t) causes are the ones who don't really need ENDA. Most already have safe jobs and/or independent incomes. They are the ones who influence the debate, not the marginalized and needy beggars at the door. Until these people realize their interest in supporting nondiscrimination law, marriage will continue to be subject #1.

I suppose you can call it Karma, Monica, but I believe that it's even more simple and direct than that.

In 2002, the NY LGBT activist community, led by the Empire State Pride Agenda, taught the NYS legislature that NY gays and lesbians were perfectly fine with depriving some people of basic civil rights in order to please more powerful and influential groups.

Now, the NY legislature has taken that lesson to heart and is applying it in this situation. I guess what I'm wondering most is why anyone would be surprised. After all, it was our own community that first endorsed this kind of behavior.


That was seven years ago. Seven whole years. At what point do we let go and move on? I'm certain you find it painful and unfair, but this is 2009 and many of us are coming to the realization that we need to unite under a new strategy and move forward. Doing so will require all of us to leave the past behind. It already happened - we learned from it.

I do not know a single gay or lesbian person that wants to leave anyone behind. Your angry assertions to the contrary do not convince me, either. Real equality doesn't permit any of us to continue blaming and shaming.

The only way we'll ever achieve equality is together.

How can we let it go when we're still dealing with the results today, Andrew? How can we allow ourselves to forget such colossal political blunders (and let's be honest, we're only just discovering how truly colossal) and risk repeating them?

We're seeing it again, right now, in New York State. Did you forget that there was once a transgender rights bill (GENDA) on that docket, but in recent weeks that's just fallen off the radar completely? I can assure you we haven't forgotten.

After all, clearly gay marriage should be the priority in New York since transpeople have only been waiting most of the last decade for the right not to fired from our jobs just for being trans, right?


I will repeat myself for emphasis:

I do not know a single gay or lesbian person that wants to leave anyone behind. Your angry assertions to the contrary do not convince me, either. Real equality doesn't permit any of us to continue blaming and shaming.

The only way we'll ever achieve equality is together.

Too late, Andrew. Transgender New Yorkers were already left behind by the gay and lesbian activist community, seven years ago.

What I am saying is that it is the example which these people set in 2002 by leaving transpeople behind that has helped to create a political climate in New York today where a political betrayal like this is possible, and maybe even should have been expected.

And as I said above, we're seeing the same story repeat itself as once again SSM grabs all the drama and media attention in NY, and GENDA has been quickly forgotten about by our so-called "allies".

Angela Brightfeather | December 3, 2009 3:16 PM

Monica is so right about New York and I fought that fight back then and in NY counties and cities that followed right along with the SONDA way of thinking. NY Trans people are still fighting for their equality.

Andrew, your great on numbers but you don't know a darn thing about building political steam behind an issue except to quit if the numbers aren't there. So please sit back and let people build the pressure as they feel they must, without trying to let the cork out of the bottle on them. Your being counterproductive at the most and politically nieve at the very least.
to think your way, it would only be advisory to push in a direction that you are assured of winning legislation even before you start and give up on everything else that is not a done deal already. If people had listened to your way of thinking ten years ago, we would still be fighting for hate crimes legislation. ENDA is a matter of life and death, SSM is a matter of achieving social recognition and equality in a system that is less than 50% successful to begin with. Try those numbers on for size.

Jillian, I had a deja-vu incident when I heard about NY, especially when the NY Pride Agenda started to boast about the great job they are doing and how the Governor was on their side. I'm quite familiar with the "snow jobs" in NY having lived in the Tug Hill Plateau area most of my life. That gets about 200" of snow every winter. The NY Pride Agenda and the snow in that state share the same habit of dumping in large loads and within a short time frame, leaving everyone buried until late, late spring.

I am glad that you have been asked on Michael Signoreli's show this afternoon. Michael has always pushed for ENDA and is aware of how important it is.


You can continue to create the false impression that you can change politicians minds regarding LGBT issues, because that is your . But, don't continue to suggest it is true. At some point the health of our Community must become more important than earning a paycheck.

If you want to provide evidence that there is a way to change the minds of politicians - please share. There are many battles that this information would have come in very handy. 50 years worth of battles. 50 years worth of "pressure" on politicians. We should have used it on those 8 Democratic NY Senators. That would have been a perfect opportunity.

Please explain what "pressure" you put on these politicians. Shame? Blame? Angry demands? Perhaps a few examples of politicians that have changed their minds as a result of this "pressure?"

It's true that Mike Signorile has always supported ENDA, but his support and his respect for transgender people and our rights has been, shall we say, more concrete and proactive in some ways than in others. More than that I choose not to say publicly (at least not right now). That said, however, suffice it to say that I heard his interview with Jillian and thought both host and guest did an excellent job.

I do not know a single gay or lesbian person that wants to leave anyone behind.


A perfect bookend for the Arizona swampland I bought last month.

Jillian-Thanks for all your hard - Hard work. I apologize for missing the conference call yesterday. Like Phil Reese, I will do what I can too.