Alex Blaze

Why DADT repeal gets more attention than ENDA

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 18, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: ENDA, jobs, labor, lesbian, LGBT, military, transgender, workforce

Adam Bink posed some interesting questions yesterday about how DADT is taking attention away from ENDA, whether that's fair, and what it means for the LGBT movement. In 2009, Congress kept on kicking ENDA further and further down; now it's kicking DADT repeal further down the line. That's change we can believe in!

It's nothing new, though, that DADT gets more attention than ENDA even though the latter will help far more people. If we conservatively estimate the size of America's LGB population to be 5%, or 15 million people, then around .44% of LGB people is serving in the armed forces, according to the Williams Institute's most recent numbers. On the other hand, almost every LGB person will eventually have a job, plus ENDA helps transgender people, plus there are millions more people who experience job discrimination based on their sexuality or gender outside the military than within.

So why does DADT get more attention, more polling, better messaging, more straight media, and more overall hoopla than ENDA? I can think of a few reasons.

1. The attention follows the funds. People who have more money to donate to the LGBT movement have more power to control what we focus on, and they also have more power to grow certain programs that speak to their values. Sure, anyone can start an org and try to get more attention on their pet project, but if you're working too many hours at an under-staffed job you're worried about losing if you slack up just a little bit because you have no savings, then you aren't really in the same position to start an org as someone else who calls their LGBT org to order on their yacht while sipping martinis (and there are people like that in the movement, but I have a don't ask, don't tell policy when it comes to naming names).

It's funny how I've heard a couple people within the movement - one who was a major donor and another who works in mainstream media - complain about Tammy Baldwin's domestic partnership legislation, the bill that would grant benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. They each said, independently of one another, that it wasn't a priority that the community came to itself (remember, these people define their own priorities as "the community's" priorities), both scoffed at how it would only help a minority of LGBT people out there (even though more civilians work for the federal government than military folks, and it stands to reason LGBT people would be more likely to be in the bureaucracy than in the military), and both have gotten far more excited by the prospect of overturning DOMA than they ever were about ENDA.

Neither is partial to irony, either.

ENDA's gotten accepted on the official LGBT wish list because it would help most people and because it's been around forever. But that doesn't mean that it's going to be high on that list, or as enthusiastically supported as other items on there.

What that means is that there's more free time for people who want to work on DADT. Plus more staff. Plus they can pay for more polling (and they get more polling on DADT than they do ENDA). They can hob nob with the right people to get media attention drawn to DADT. They can coordinate their message for important events in advance of them happening since fighting DADT is their full-time job. And they can turn out studies about how much money it costs to enforce DADT and yet we never see one on the impact homophobic and transphobic discrimination have on the American economy. Heck, they can staff entire think tanks to work just on DADT, while ENDA's the foster child moving back and forth between HRC, the Task Force, the NCTE, and PAW.

While everyone can, and should, participate in this thing we call the movement, and while there are no set leaders and we're all free to participate how we want, some people will have more leisure time and free money to devote to their pet projects and those projects will end up getting more work done on them because of it. The fact that the people who decide how the movement's money gets spent haven't, for the most part, experienced job discrimination themselves means that ENDA doesn't have a real impact.

These sorts of people are looking for powerful symbols of inclusion - like marriage and military participation - and ENDA's definitely not that. They know they're seen as less-than and they want that to go away, but ENDA's not the way to actually change the general "ick" people get thinking about gay sex. And ENDA doesn't even go as far as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which means it can't be used as proof that we're a bona fide oppressed minority, that "Gay is the new black." It is just about making an incremental improvement in people's lives, and continuing the long process of rooting out systemic homo- and transphobia as it affects economically average queers.

2. DADT repeal is more conservative than passing ENDA. And I don't mean that as a reproach - I support both. But there's a reason Dick Cheney came out against DADT yet hasn't voiced support for ENDA, or why GOProud supports DADT repeal but not ENDA.

One of them is about getting to be a soldier and fight the enemy; the other is about getting a stable income in what's probably a soul-crushing job. One's about defending America's freedom; the other's about economic development of an oppressed minority. One is about fully participating in one of the most regressive institutions in the US; the other's about challenging big businesses to be more PC. One can borrow all sorts of fun national security/fight the terrorists arguments; the other has to depend on, at the most, labor and civil rights rhetoric.

And being further to the right it A) becomes inclusive of centrist and conservative queers, B) becomes more intuitive, since the CW still understands the US as a center-right nation, and C) seems, after 40 years of conservative dominance, to be easier to pass.

3. DADT repeal is a goal, ENDA is a tool. DADT repeal won't end discrimination against LGB people in the military, and it won't even begin to attack discrimination against T-folk in the military. There will still be gay men beaten up in the military for looking at other guys the wrong way in the shower. There will still be lesbian women denied promotions because of their sexuality. There will still be bi folks whose sexuality will be used to blackmail them and keep them quiet. And people who transition while in the military will still be discharged.

But I'll predict right now that the rest of us outside the military will care less about military discrimination after DADT is repealed than we do now because all that stuff will be about a few bad apples, some people not getting along, lingering discrimination, and other free-floating factors that aren't easily described on paper or easily fought with a new law. The situation will often be just as bad as it is now, and just as homophobic. It'll be just as wrong and it'll prevent quite a few people from coming out or signing up. Changing the wording of a law is something concrete that can be accomplished, while on-going advocacy for individuals is difficult, frustrating, and complex.

That's what ENDA is, though. It's the military's second step, after DADT gets repealed, except for the private workforce. There is no specific ban on LGBT people getting jobs, but LGBT people still face discrimination and will need, should ENDA pass, help on a case-by-case basis. ENDA passing Congress and becoming a law won't change much, but it'll be a legal tool to victims of discrimination. DADT getting repealed will immediately change military policy, even if it doesn't actually improve the lives of many LGB people in the military for a while.

4. Straight people like talking about DADT more because they understand why it's wrong and what needs to be changed. It's formal discrimination. It's a clearly-written law that discriminates in a way that's so black and white they can't miss it.

ENDA, on the other hand, adds a protection. It's not about us "getting our rights" or being equal to straight people (since straight people don't have job protections based on sexual orientation in the status quo); it's about rectifying systemic inequality present throughout the workforce. It's about attacking a problem most straight people can't or won't see because they aren't the victim of it and it's not written out in clear block letters. And, lest we forget, many of the same people who think of themselves as supportive of LGBT people even participate in discrimination against us.

ENDA requires them to really put themselves in our shoes and understand that discrimination against LGBT people is prevalent and hurtful. DADT doesn't require that much thought from them for them to look down their noses at homophobic straight people. It's moral superiority without any price at all, which people in the dominant class of an axis of identity love.

5. DADT repeal doesn't include trans people; ENDA does. I'm not going to spell it out any more than that, other than to say that there are a few Ronald Golds in the movement who would cut off their noses to spite their faces. And after 2007, some borderline cases are just burnt out on being forced to pretend to care about trans folk or the larger "LGBT goddammit wasn't it easier when we were just gay instead of this dumb list of letters community."

6. It's more fun to argue with fundies about DADT than ENDA. This links back in with why straight people like talking about DADT more, but it's also why our media prefers it and why it attracts more attention both in and out of the LGBT community.

Their arguments against DADT are just plain funny. Gays will attack straights in the military (as if we'll outnumber them). Gays will spring a boner while in the battlefield. Showers will become as steamy as a Cinemax movie. It's not meeeee who's homophobic, but other soldiers from rural areas who are. The military's about traditional values, and sodomy isn't a traditional value.

On ENDA? It's usually something about lawsuits, about how churches will be forced to ordain gay clergy, or about transgender people using showers and bathrooms. Basically, their arguments are things that are just false or the opposite of what we believe or offensive. But they're not funny or ridiculous. They don't make good Daily Show fodder and they don't create a good hook for a Washington Post column. And they're usually repeated so often, with no inspiration or creativity, so they don't even make headlines in LGBT media.

Elaine Donnelly is crazy and Dan Choi looks like a hero, but do we even know the name of the head fundie against ENDA? It's all their orgs, I suppose, so it's not about personalities. This one's just about the issue. It's doesn't make for good media.

While it's nice that Barack Obama mentioned DADT in the SOTU, we'll have to wait and see on that one. Nathaniel Frank has already pronounced it dead in Congress for this year, Congressional sources are telling media anonymously that they're advising Democrats to ignore it this year, HRC's been saying DADT repeal won't happen before the midterms for ages, and the Defense Department said it needs a year to study the issue (and who knows how long to move on it after that).

The momentum is still with ENDA, which is further along the legislative process than DADT is. And Obama's words didn't move it any closer, even if part of the discussion of the issue we've seen these past few weeks was because of his SOTU. When his DoD is specifically saying it won't happen this year, I don't see much hope in him pushing for it this year.

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Because DADT has 75% approval in polling.

To put 75% in perspective, that's about the same level of approval as allowing interracial marriage.

Last poll, that's admittedly old, puts employment protections for LGB at around 90%, T people at around 65%.

In fairness to the t community, no one is trying to criminalise or recriminalise transsexuality;
The same cannot be said for sodomy.

By that thinking, the trans leadership ought to make a deal with the Right to denounce gay men and receive some kind of protections in return,

Think of the commercials that they could make.

The anti-gay conservatives screech that there will be affirmative action if ENDA is passed. In other words, the anti-gays play on the knee-jerk cultural racism that most whites have in competitive situations.

Um… ok, I am prejudiced. I admit it. First and foremost I’m military. I also grew up in the old south during the Civil Rights Era. I HATE discrimination in any form.

DADT is not just blatantly discriminatory, it’s a failure to its very core.
It allows Gays and Lesbians to serve, just not to be open or vocal about it. There is no other law that I’m aware of that allows the action listed but bans any speech regarding it.
The Ask, Tell, Harass and Pursue are ignored in the normal day to day duties of nearly everywhere and everyone I worked with while I was in.
Seriously, I’ve only ever seen Gays and Lesbians charged with infractions against DADT but never anyone who was harassing or pursuing. So the law itself is only used against Gays and Lesbians and no others even though it’s been crafted to not only protect Gay and Lesbian service members but to be used against those heterosexuals that do harass and pursue Gay and Lesbians.

I also support DADT repeal because I believe that it is a solid strategic goal for the entire GLBTI community.
If DADT is repealed Gays and Lesbians can serve openly. Openly they can not only proclaim their sexuality but also claim their rights and privileges under their contracts. That means that their marriages MUST be acknowledged.
Can DOMA stand if the Federal Government recognizes a single married Gay couple? No, not at all. I am aware of married Gays and Lesbians with families that exist right now. I live in Connecticut, Gays and Lesbians can marry here. It only takes one couple who has a member of the military to stand up and DOMA will fall of its own accord.

I support DADT repeal because I believe that if ENDA fails now, DADT will at least sow seeds for a better future where ENDA will have a greater chance of passing. Even if it doesn’t pass, far more people will be made aware of GLBT people around them and that we are not people who should be feared like some would make us out to be monsters.

But like I said at the start, I’m military and I hate discrimination. I’m seeing a target rich environment and I’m striking at all of them, not just one. All of these discriminatory policies must fall for us to stand free.

I don't know if DADT repeal means that their marriages must be acknowledged. The federal government is doing a pretty good job ignoring civil servants who are married, even though there are a few suing for marital benefits. But I don't see why the same double standard couldn't be applied to the military.

>>>"they can turn out studies about how much money it costs to enforce DADT and yet we never see one on the impact homophobic and transphobic discrimination have on the American economy"

They'd be great to have, but from WHAT would one collect such studies? Each discharge from the military for being gay is documented and tabulated. How many civilian employers write down, "I fired X because he/she was gay/trans"?

>>>"The fact that the people who decide how the movement's money gets spent haven't, for the most part, experienced job discrimination themselves means that ENDA doesn't have a real impact."

Please name one study that supports that "fact." Thirty-seven years after the military draft ended, it's more probable that more in Gay, Inc. HAVE experienced some kind of civilian job discrimination than have even been IN the military. The paid staff of HRC alone dwarfs that of SLDN and Servicemembers United combined. Per the late "Washington Blade," as of a last May, following lay-offs, "HRC has 134 full-time employees and one part-time employee." The older of the previous two, with a larger staff, SLDN only has 16 staff members and most of them list no military service in their bios.

>>>"These sorts of people are looking for powerful symbols of inclusion."

"sorts of people"???

>>>DADT repeal is more conservative than passing ENDA."

An ideological assertion, not an objective fact.

>>>"there's a reason Dick Cheney came out against DADT yet hasn't voiced support for ENDA"

Sure is, and it's because he's been ASKED about DADT and not ENDA. Actually, he has expressed support for job protection for civilians, albeit not literally in the context of a federal gay job protection bill. When he was Secty. of Defense under Bush pere and his Asst. Secty. and Pentagon Spokesperson Pete Williams was outed in 1991, he responded to Sam Donaldson asking him on "This Week with David Brinkley," if Williams would be asked to resign: "Absolutely not. ...As long as they perform their professional responsibilities in a responsible manner, their private lives are their business."

>>>"[DADT] is about getting to be a soldier and fight the enemy; [ENDA] is about getting a stable income in what's probably a soul-crushing job."

Whatever the reason a gay person enlists, and I would submit in the absence of evidence proving the contrary that the majority enlist for a "stable income" or to earn post service funds for college to help them get a different "stable income," a fired gay servicemember ends up in the same place a fired gay civilian does: the unemployment line.

I've looked in the text of ENDA and see no reference to "soul crushing jobs."

>>>"[ENDA's] about economic development of an oppressed minority."

Gay servicemembers are NOT "an oppressed minority"???

As for "economic development," see "unemployment line" above.

>>>[DADT] is about fully participating in one of the most regressive institutions in the US" [is] "further to the right"

More ideological assertions, not objective facts.

>>>[ENDA's] about challenging big businesses to be more PC."

The current ENDA bill applies to businesses with as few as 16 employees.

>>>"DADT repeal won't end discrimination against LGB people in the military"


Certainly, no law totally prevents anything. See annual murder rate across the US. But following the models of racial and gender integration of the military...ONCE they were finally ENFORCED with a zero tolerance environment in which it was made clear to commandeers that their advancement DEPENDED, in part, on evidence that they were playing an active role in encouraging diversity acceptance and stamping out expressions of discrimination, discrimination against gays in the military will be minimized just as much.

>>>"on-going advocacy for individuals is difficult, frustrating, and complex."

Again, no, the model has already been patented with race and gender by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute [DEOMI]. As the House bill demands re policies, "sexual orientation" need only be added to their many training programs.

>>>"There will still be lesbian women denied promotions because of their sexuality."

While the sentence is rationally begging for the adjective "some," that will be no less true with passage of ENDA, too, as banning discrimination and PROVING it's occurred are two different things regardless of the demographic involved. But mechanisms for redress will result both from DADT repeal and ENDA albeit in different forms.

>>>"ENDA adds a protection. It's about rectifying systemic inequality present throughout the workforce."

No more so than repealing DADT in a context following the "Military Readiness Enhancement Act."

>>>"ENDA requires them to really put themselves in our shoes and understand that discrimination against LGBT people is prevalent and hurtful."

HOW does it do that? I see nothing in its text remotely addressing that. It doesn't require civilian businesses with more than 15 employees to create ANY "awareness" programs let alone any like those already existing and UNIVERSALLY enforced in the military under the guidance of DEOMI.

>>>"[DADT is] moral superiority without any price at all"

I don't get how the hell "moral superiority" applies here, but, again, there WILL be a "price" for failure to enforce nondiscrimination against gay servicemembers after repeal: commanders' careers.

>>>"DADT repeal doesn't include trans people"

Technically true, but as multiple trans persons have repeatedly affirmed here, DADT has been used as a mechanism to label them "gay" and discharge them. Get rid of it and you get rid of that option.

For those interested in a documented analysis of the organic evolution of the military ban over four decades as a movement issue including links to historical photos and video of one of our pioneers, see my comment at

Thank you.

I have heard lots of gays say that they think that there is "little" or "moderate" discrimination in the workforce. I personally think that it is more general, and that because of institutionalized discrimination, gays have gravitated to certain employment where they feel more acceptable.Also, although there may be employment , there may not be the expected promotions, security, or other status from the job afforded to non LGBT persons by an employer.

I have also heard lots of gays say that they feel that ENDA is mainly to help the trans community, and that the trans community has been very vocal against marriage and almost as bad by not supporting the repeal of DADT. I think that we should all be supporting both these issues, plus ENDA. However, there is merit to this idea as to where so much of the opposition within the LGBT groups is against marriage and DADT repeal.

Yeah, but those who say there's "little to moderate" discrimination against LGBT people are usually the ones who live in a state that already has the protections ENDA would provide. Here in Indiana, you can still be fired for being LGBT and we hear the stories regularly about people who have been.

The Trans community was not so much vocally opposed, a few individuals of high vocal volume excepted, as much as disengaged with the marriage battles.

They were licking wounds from our throwing them under the bus yet again and scapegoating them.

"Institutionalized discrimination" is a good way to
describe the situation alot of LBGT individuals
face in the workforce. "Institutional discrimination" is alive and well in the Commonwealth of Virginia where the Governor has
just taken away all state protection for LBGT

Let's be honest, here.

Two years ago, a Democratic controlled Congress managed to get an "ENDA" bill passed (and, if you listened to the Congresspeople and Senators, it was because the "need to protect" the GL&B community was so great), knowing they did not have the votes to over-ride a Presidential veto, and knowing the then-President was going to veto the bill, as they didn't - as they could have - attach ENDA to a bill that was "non-vetoable," such as, oh, an emergency allocation of tens of billions of dollars to fund "the war on terror."

It was an election year stunt on the part of the Democrats; it was always intended to be nothing but a ruse to show their "support" for gays and lesbians, and to hope gays and lesbians reciprocated that support via campaign donations.

I stated, publicly, at that time that when the elected Democrat was sworn in as President, the Democrat-controlled Congress would suddenly decide ENDA wasn't as important as it was, and there would be no action on it.

Now that another election is approaching, and some Democrats running for office are in need of cash, there's suddenly "work" on both DADTDP and ENDA.

Fool me once...

If only I were as optimistic as you! It seems to me that the election is getting used as an excuse to ignore these issues instead of an excuse to make a half-assed attempt to address them. Especially since the DOD's timeline puts the debate on DADT right at the beginning of 2011....

Maybe something will happen this year. I'd love to be wrong.


I believe you and I are seeing the same situation and simply defining it differently.

You see the 2011 timeline as a threat at the ballot box, a sort of sword of Damocles hanging over the head of every Congressperson and Senator running for re-election, and view that as an omen some action is actually going to be taken.

I see the 2011 timeline as simply another carrot being dangled to get money from the community, and for the community to rush to their polling location and cast their votes, while, simultaneously, those candidates for whom we're expected to cast votes can hedge on the issue: "I know the President has asked Congress to repeal 'DADT,' but there are more immediate concerns the Congress is facing..."

Our Fierce Advocate campaigned with some very specific promises concerning the homosexually oriented and redefining their place in society. Gay dollars were donated in record amounts.

After his election, it was as if we didn't exist, up to and including defending DOMA in federal court with a brief equating laws that govern same-gendered couples with laws that govern incest and bestiality.

The dollars stopped, almost immediately, right at the time a major "gay fundraiser" was scheduled. Suddenly, an Administrative Order was issued that allowed for full spousal benefits to the partners of federal government employees. A trickle of dollars began again, but at only about 1/10th of the previous flow. The annual fundraiser drew donations of only about $250K; in previous years, the donations normally totaled just over $2 million.

And that "Administrative Order"? Well, since it's been issued... the same-gender spouse of an Ambassador was refused permission to travel with his husband, no same-gender spouse of an armed forces service person can receive any benefits, and a same-gender spouse of a lesbian federal employee has been continuously denied health care, despite a judge's ruling she receive such benefits.

So, we turned off the tap again. And, like clockwork, there's suddenly "progress" being made on especially heinous governmental policies, and Our Fierce Advocate assures us changes are in store, but it's going to take a year or two. Three at the latest. Though, maybe, four.

Uh huh.



Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice... and I'm one of those persons PT Barnum simply loved.

I agree with Eric, Alex, and said so at the time that they played he "fool me once" game with ENDA. As for electioneering, putting it out and letting it die costs little

beachcomberT | February 19, 2010 7:34 AM

Seems like we could take care of all the bias in one bill by amending ENDA to include military employment and repealing DADT. But Obama, ever the true leader, will look for the least risky, most watered-down way to make sure he doesn't look too pro-gay. Same for the Blue Dogs. Instead of "change we can believe in," it's now "wait until next year" and "wait until the 2nd term."

"Why DADT repeal gets more attention than ENDA?"

Because Obama and a small part of the military brass want more cannon fodder for their extensive wars of conquest in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition Obama and H. Clinton are menacing Iran and want to attack but lack have the means to so.

Their attempt to enlarge enlistment will be more successful if unemployment and homelessness continue to grow. On the other hand increased enlistment because of DADT repeal is problematic. Repeal of Clinton's DADT is bitterly opposed by the mostly christer and extremely right wing (can you spell Wehrmacht) officer class. ( ) And on top of that it's hard to believe that more than a tiny minority of GLBT folks would want to adventure risking death, maiming, suicide and PTSD.

ENDA or any inclusive bill covering employment, services and housing is definitely very low the agenda of the White House and looks to remain so. Democrat apologists counterpoise inaction on ENDA their hysteria to continue giveaways to the looter rich to 'stabilize the market'. That in spite of the fact that giveaways like TARP destabilize the economy, have a negligible effect on the rise of unemployment and homelessness and amount to the biggest theft in human history this side of slavery and Manifest Destiny.

Discrimination against members of the LBGT community in the workplace is always wrong. At the present time, legislation is the best way to address this issue.

When as a society will we reach the point whereby all members of the LBGT community are treated fairly in the workplace because it is the right, decent thing to do regardless of the laws on the books?

As a member of the LGBT community who is over age 55, I seriously doubt if either myself or my Partner will see full equality in our lifetime.

I suppose I am a cynic and I have become rather jaded in connection to politics. I believe it is always a matter of money as it seems to be the life blood of the politician. They are always running for re-election and it is generally on someone else's money as opposed to their own. ENDA is a cash cow for both sides as long as it is a piece of pending legislation. Once it is passed it ceases to be a source of income for either side, those who supposedly support it, and those who supposedly oppose it. So nether side wants to see it passed! If anyone does not think these people in Washington do not talk back and forth all the time they are mistaken. They make deals we will never hear about and I am sure that both sides know ENDA passage is the end of a pipeline of money to them.

The far right uses it to shake down the conservative church goers with fear tactics such as images of big harry guys in dresses being school teachers in their church school or following their women into the bathrooms. Or they use the example of how a Gay teacher will be given the job of educating their children in Sex ED classes and promoting a "Gay agenda" in doing so. Everyone who falls under the label of LGBTQ is painted with the same brush, that of being a sex crazed person who's sole desire in life is to have some manner of sex relations with someone else.

Then there are those who are supposed to be on our side. Who claim to wish to pass things like ENDA or removal of DADT or DOMA. They just keep playing the game of give me money so I can help you to get this passed. They say, I am your friend, but they always manage to fall just short enough to make it look like they are actually trying to do something. However it is hard to hide that this time around in my book. They only keep pointing to other "more pressing" legislation keeping them from or some lame "wording issue on bathroom access" as the cause of a tactical delay which will put it just out of reach. Or some study that they have to review for another year or two or spend more money on yet another study when they can see examples of it working just fine all over the world already. I am sure they talk to other countries who have Gay and Lesbian troops in the military. They do not need some stupid study. They have that data already. It is just another smoke screen.

I personally believe it will take far more than words to get things like ENDA moved forward and DADT and DOMA repealed. I think it will either take several years until a new generation comes up which might be more respectful of the differences in people or it will take protest like it took to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. However as I said I am a cynic. I hope I am wrong.

How about the big one about military recruiting? The US military has routinely stopped enforcing anti-gay recruting rules when they really need soliders. Plenty of gay people were told they could go to Vietnam, Korea, or WW2. One of the big reasons that people are gung-ho over DADT is because repealing it will increase the number of bullet sponges for Iraq.