Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

A Tale of Two ENDAs: Time For Direct Action

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | March 08, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: employment discrimination, employment non-discrimination, ENDA

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.

This quote from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities captures how I feel about LGBT rights these days, and ENDA in particular. We have a fierce advocate in the White House; that same person has never mentioned ENDA and has started pushing DADT repeal (though not for now, no next year, maybe).

We have Rep. Barney Frank, who has aggressively championed ENDA since its introduction in 1994; that same person has predicted a vote on ENDA in September, October, November, January, February and March and here it is March 8 and nothing has happened to indicate any movement.

We have a Chair of the House Committee on Labor and Education, Rep. George Miller, who has proclaimed his support of LGBT rights and ENDA, over and over again; that same person is sitting on ENDA since November, when the markup was postponed, on the ground that a few language tweaks needed four months to process.

We have Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was quoted in the paper a year ago saying that ENDA is first priority, but yet she is saying nothing while it languishes in committee for months with her good friend, Rep. Miller.

What should we do?

I think that it is time to start increasing pressure on the leadership in as many ways as we possibly can. It is not enough to make phone calls to our Members of Congress. It is not enough to have professional lobbyists or constituent lobby days. It is not enough to have a march, or a rally, or write blogs.

We need direct action. Someone needs to start holding the leadership to account in a way that cannot be so easily ignored. We make calls -- and they tell us they're not getting calls. Our advocacy organizations send lobbyists -- and they tell us no one has lobbied them. We hold lobby days -- and they have us meet with aides. We march and rally, and they tell us it's a waste of time. We write blogs, and they tell us to start acting like part of the "real world."

Yes, it is time to start making some noise in the real world. We need to have people who are willing to sit down in the office and refuse to leave and call the newspapers to report on the arrests. We need to have people who confront the leadership on the street with questions and video the results. We need to have people who are willing to raise the stakes. Because we've been working our little tails off and getting nowhere with the traditional methods.

I think we must continue to work with the traditional methods -- but also be willing to try something else.

Why is only the Right that gets to call for change in Washington?

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SarasNavel | March 8, 2010 6:57 PM

One thing we need to remember is that it is in the best interest of all current politicians to *not* pass ENDA.

Their careers, both for and against, are at least partially built on us not gaining equality.

For those of whatever is left of the Left, an endless war is a good war. Where would HRC be if ENDA actually passed?

For those of the Right, having a demon against which to fight and rally the troops is a Godsend.

For those in the Middle, well, they know their constituents have been sold on the idea that we are sinners, or perverts, or just not "family" material. Or that only one marketable issue can be fought at a time and we're not it.

What we have now is a false religious war with false enemies. We even have false allies, many of whom we've created through wishful thinking. Happy to accept our votes and dollars, they did not correct our mistake.

What we need is a focused push to win full equal rights for all genders and sexualities at a federal level. The sort of thing Congressman Kucinich hinted at during last summer's ENDA hearings.

What we get are promises and poorly designed marriage equality campaigns and promises of DADT repeal.

This is why incrementalism won't work: at some point a balance is struck and momentum is lost without full equality having been gained.

Obviously, we aren't quite angry enough, or we've lost the anger we used to have. Most of us have it "good enough". Some of us even have it "pretty good". So long as we keep our noses clean & look mainstream presentable, most of the LGBT universe can often get just-adequate jobs and housing. Except of course for when we don't, but hey, those must be the ones we don't really want as part of the movement because they are holding the rest of us back, right?

We play the game because they're all happy to let us, but we won't win this way.

Angela Brightfeather | March 8, 2010 7:08 PM

And that is the gist of it. The biggest mistake made with ENDA is to wait until now to take it to the streets and after alomost 20 years to continue to think that negotiating is the key.

For anyone to wake up in DC it means that they have to be shook up. Fighting on all fronts should be the call intead of aquiesing to those who say that lobbying, phone calls and letters are the logical first step or the best way. The only logical first step is to do everything all at once and to keep on doing it.

Bravo! Do you think a coordinated national day of action is in order? Or should we be more random? I thinking both.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | March 8, 2010 10:35 PM

Dr. Jillian you are the only person talking about ENDA on a consistent basis. Thank you.

I think we need to start hitting them on all fronts after March 18th. It would be good to get as many LGBT bloggers together and blog swarm: 1)HRC and 2) Relevant MSM contacts (e.g. Maddow/Olbermann/Huffington etc...) and see what momentum can be built. The blog swarm on DADT seemed to work at raising awareness but ENDA is even more important. At least we could start there and see where it leads.

What about blog swarm calls to specific government officials?: White House/Frank/Miller/Pelosi.

Kathleen of Norfolk | March 8, 2010 10:36 PM

I understand what you are saying but getting an arrest record is very counter productive to securing and sometimes keeping employment.

Cheryl Cristello | March 9, 2010 1:20 AM

You are indeed correct Kathleen. BUT. I was fired "because of the economy" 18 mos after transition and after 29 years with the same employer. I've applied for about 400 jobs with only two interviews. I'm 64 - haul me off to jail if you wish.

Thank you! I don't really believe anything will happen until we stop imagining it can happen with letters, calls, and emails. We need direct action, and we need it last year.

When lobbying doesn't work (and some actually admit it) we then encourage direct action and civil disobedience. Unfortunately, politicians don't respond to this activity, either.

The intent of direct action is to create awareness, but people are already very aware of the LGBT Community. Maybe that wasn't true decades ago or during the outrage about Aids during the 80s and 90s, but today - everyone knows.

The message of direct action or civil disobedience is that something isn't fair. Those politicians that are anti-gay and their constituents know it "isn't fair." Protest doesn't change any minds.

Sooner or later, we need to change minds.

We should figure out "how."

The best way to change minds is to get involved in society while being out of the closet.

Special note to the many so-called trans leaders who feel society exists only to focus on gender issues: IT DOESN'T!

Special note to the many so-called gay leaders who feel society exists only to focus on gay issues: IT DOESN'T!

Special note to everyone associated with the LGBT community who feels society exists only to focus on problems of interest to the LGBT/progressive community: IT DOESN'T!

I short I suggest LGBT individuals get out of our respective LGBT/progressive ghettos and participate in all that society has to offer. The more people that know us and like us the more supporters we get.

WARNING: activists please sit down as the next bit of advice may weaken your knees and make you fall down.

HAVE FUN! Life is not all doom and gloom as much as some of our LGBT/progressive posters might believe.

If you haven't figured it out from what I wrote above let me clarify further: have fun with people outside the LGBT/progressive communities. For example, rather than joining a gay bowling league join a bowling league.

If you're a transwoman and love dressing up by all means do so. There is a huge group of non-transwomen who will be inspired by you. They've been oppressed by the feminist Nazis to think "feminine" is a dirty word. Be a role model for these women by being proud to be feminine. (How do I know I'll be slammed for saying this? Many members in the LGBT community have also been brain-washed by the feminist Nazis to think that wearing heels/skirts is a sin forced on women by men and that women must be miserable man haters to be appropriate role models.)

Do a Google search on "gay" and you'll find one definition is "cheery: bright and pleasant; promoting a feeling of cheer." I think this is good advice for all of us in the LGBT/progressive communities.

MauraHennessey | March 9, 2010 7:03 AM

I am a fairly radical feminist(not a separatist) and a radical Lesbian. I am lipstick, as lipstick as they come.

Please go easy on the broad based condemnation of feminists.

I am a Lesbian Feminist Activist and I am as lipstick as they come. Go easy on Lesbian feminist, please.

"Because we've been working our little tails off and getting nowhere with the traditional methods. I think we must continue to work with the traditional methods -- but also be willing to try something else."

Translation: Traditional methods get you nowhere, but keep at it, Hamsters, it feels like progress.

I agree, Jill. This should have been an easy lift for the White House and Congress. That they've dithered around on it this long says all I need to know. They can't accomplish health care, or employment rights for LGBT people, or protecting women's health. They can't do anything Democrats should be fighting hardcore in favor of. Democrats just can't seem to do anything right now.

That said, isn't the health care bill in the same committee? Isn't that the "delay" now?

It's been the same "delay" all along - we can't get anything LGBT-related past the US Senate.

The White House knows. The Congress knows. The Media knows. Even disingenuous HRC knows.

All the lobbying, direct action or even complaining doesn't change that reality. Anti-gay politicians are NOT changeable. You have to change Senators (elections) or change the minds of their constituents (enrollment). Everything else is a waste of time, energy and money.

Angela Brightfeather | March 9, 2010 11:29 AM

So far in the responses, I have read at least five reasons not to take it to the streets. They range from fear of getting arrested to lets be more out and friendly and all points in between. I guess we have our own brand of fear when it comes to standing up for our issues. It makes you wonder what the difference is between marching for ENDA and the Tea Baggers who wave signs of the President sayng he is the devil or the Joker and yet, they don't get arrested and they seem to have little or no fear about vocalizing their issues. (The next comment after this will state how we can't be as crass as them. Just another excuse not to take action.)

There has been a lot of talk about DADT lately, but no one seems to understand that DADT is just the tip of the iceburg and everyone seems to be wondering why it is going to take a year for the Joint Chiefs to advise the President to repeal DADT. When at the same time they expect it to happen tomorrow, they fail to realize that instant appeal of DADT in any form, simple brings up the next series of questions and fights for partners of soldiers not serving and if they have VA rights, or military recognition of SSM in those states where military bases exist and SSM is allowed by law.

ENDA is not that complex and the issue is the basic right to work without being discriminated against. Those who fight for DADT repeal seem to not realize the implications of a successful ENDA and how the DOD would have to do something about their being the only government entity to still discriminate against GLBT people when applying for a job or being fired from the job they are in. In other words, as usual, we have the tail wagging the dog. It's to bad that proponents of DADT don't understand that by passing ENDA, it only puts more pressure on the DOD to do the right thing.

Instead we listen to the peaceniks who continue to fight fire with words and common sense, when it is obvious that after many years that is a failed strategy. They don't want to get arrested and they are the same kind of person who didn't want to stand against the war in Vietnam and lamented, as 52,000 Americans lost their lives in a losing battle.

There is a time when words are no longer your weapons, but have been crafted into the weapons of the other side. When legislative technicalities have become those weapons, it's time to take a different approach. People have known this since the time of the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party, right up to the recent Equality March on DC.

It is the failure of our leaders who are appointed or annointed, to organize an action pushing ENDA. It is the failure of their being able to sit at a table and make this issue #1 and supporting a unified action to "rebel" if you want to call it, at the non-action and stalling tactics of the administration. It is their failure to lead as they should and must, to gather people and complain and to insure that they do it in an organized way so they aren't arrested and to make sure that the media responds and to craft the words that they wrtie. It is their failure to take the abused out of the committee hearings and to put a human face on them by creating media adds that inform the general public and creating interest. It is their failure to step up and stop people on blogs like this one from pointing the finger at each other and saying "so why aren't you doing it?" They have to say, "we will do it and here is the date and time that we will do it and you should be there."

That is not passing the buck. That is doing the job that you are being paid to do. That is leading on every front and fighting with purpose.
That is putting yourself at the head of the column and marching forward.

It is also something that should have happened a long time ago. In this respect maybe the Tea Baggers have it right. When they say "throw the bums out", perhaps GLBT people should be saying the exact same thing about the people who supposedly represent them in DC. Perhaps the corruption the stagnation and the priorities are so deep and so ill placed, that no amount of prodding can make them take their appointed leadership roles. But the recent blog push would inidcate otherwise, since there was some response. Perhaps we just need to turn up the volume so they can hear what we are saying about ENDA. It is a good place to start rattling the chains that have been placed on ENDA.

Meghan Stabler Meghan Stabler | March 9, 2010 12:24 PM

in theory I am in agreement with your observations. But we do not have the masses to make a 'take to the streets' a truly viable option. What I really would like to push are folks to visit Pelosi's office in California and in Congress en-mass, and not to leave, demanding she commit to the floor vote of HR3017, and that she not wait to place it after any other bill (HCR etc)

Meghan Stabler Meghan Stabler | March 9, 2010 11:48 AM

This should have been an easy lift, but getting legislation passed in DC is never just a linear process/direction. There are multiple turns, changes and coordination points. Having been in DC last week, in both the House and Senate I am pretty confident that we will see movement out of House markup of HR3017. I talked with some folks last night and have proposed to Jillian that we focus energy around NCTE's lobby day next week on the 16th.

On the 15th we should encourage people to call their Representative with the gist of, "Citizens of your district will be visiting your office tomorrow to discuss HR3017, and to ask that the Representative supports and votes yes on this bill when it hits the floor for a vote". They then do the same on the 16th when NCTE lobby days happen.

We also need to have EVERYONE call on Pelosi's House and District office to demand that she move HR3017 to the floor for vote immediately after markup. This Bill cannot wait and should not wait.

I am confident we will be out of markup shortly. We need the House floor vote on this asap. We need every member of the community to take action. If there are folks in Pelosi's Cal district that can get to her home office on the 15th or 16th then do so, and demand movement. It will help.

As you know, the Senate is a different dog, the temperament there is very different and we need to take another tack.

For now, focus on the key dates of the 15th and 16th. Focus on getting people to call their representative offices, and when possible being there in DC.

As you know, the Senate is a different dog, the temperament there is very different and we need to take another tack.

Pelosi said it wouldn't pass the Senate and that's why she isn't willing to push it. Before lobbying (harassing) House Members, what's the "different tack" for the Senate? Because without solving that you are doing exactly what Jillian suggested:

" ... we've been working our little tails off and getting nowhere with the traditional methods."

Everything you suggested was very "traditional," or more of the same. It's not a question of quantity, it's quality or effectiveness.

Meghan Stabler Meghan Stabler | March 9, 2010 2:09 PM

What suggestions do you have Andrew?

The starting point would be to give up on the "traditional methods" and begin to seek new, innovative and verifiable ideas. Until we let go of tried-and-untrue tactics and strategies, we will not seek a real, sustainable strategy for victory.

Lobbying and now "direct action" are being encouraged as a kind of last hope. They, too will be exposed as ineffective.

We are about to take a big turn to the Right in America and we aren't doing anything about it. The last 18 months started with hope, that became hype and is now frustration.

We need to think about winning. When we do that, we focus on what can really make a difference and we shift our time, money and energy in that direction. I believe that will happen soon.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | March 9, 2010 4:38 PM

Andrew I am in no way an expert or experienced on these matters but I wanted to read your response to the following ideas.

Identification and definition as a viable and oppressed minority is what we seem to lack in legislative bodies nationwide. It seems that the only venue in which LGBT issues consistently receive serious, considered review are in the courts. Probably because the issues of civil rights abuses and discrimination against LGBT persons are best defined and remedied there.

Maybe we need to hold our ground in the legislatures nationwide to defend against additional anti-LGBT laws on the books, and then put our donations into suing the hell out of every agency and company that blocks progress. Hopefully we can get a lot of cases to State Supreme courts as well as SCOTUS and make progress via that route.


The Courts are an option, but probably our last resort. Our problem as a movement is that we waste our resources doing things that DO NOT help. Like this upcoming "Lobby Day," it is a waste of time and energy. Those that promote these events are usually paid to organize them. They routinely give enthusiastic endorsement without any evidence.

The FACT that politicians minds regarding LGBT-issues are not changeable BECAUSE they are based on a moral issue (their beliefs), all lobbying efforts are a waste of time. Just yesterday a gay politician (outed by his own DUI) admitted he was gay, but pledged he was going to continue to vote against gays "because that's what his constituents want." Even lobbying him - a gay politician - won't work because he wants to keep his job.

We have only two viable choices:

1) Change the politician by replacing them.

2) Change the politicians' position by changing their constituents' minds.

We do very little of either. We're too busy lobbying, sending emails, making calls, getting angry and protesting - or we're not participating.

I would suggest we DO NOT want to be permanently defined as a "special minority" needing protections, unless it is absolutely necessary. We are much better of if we are defined as equal. No Court can ever order equality, we have to create it.

It is time to be honest and objective about our movement. When we discard tried-and-untrue practices of the past, we can see opportunities. You'll notice many comments here refuse to acknowledge the reality about lobbying. Our movement will need them. We need everyone.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | March 9, 2010 6:41 PM

Thank you for your response Andrew.

I agree with your first point, but as for the second I think constituents minds are already made up. They know who we are and what we want and have said no. I think that it is as hopeless changing the average persons' mind, once made up, as it is changing the mind of a Congressman.

Again I'm not experienced at this, but I have to wonder about your view of the courts being a "last resort." If Prop 8 is successfully defeated in front of the SCOTUS, wouldn't that make DOMA easier to challenge or defeat it outright? Perhaps a court challenge against McDonnell's rescission of LGBT protections in VA (or better yet the VA AG's attempt to force VA state colleges to drop such protections) would be efficacious regarding ENDA? DADT repeal could have the same effect.

To summarize my point: The biggest obstacles to LGBT equality are the religious right's ability to put things to a popular vote in legislatures and ballot initiatives. The best mitigation of legal excess has always been State Supreme courts and SCOTUS. If the courts rule something unconstitutional and a precedent is set, legislative efforts are abandoned (e.g. Roe v Wade).

Courts are the "last resort" because they cannot ORDER equality. Everyone in the LGBT Community would rather be equal than protected.

Passing laws does not change minds. One-third of Americans are still admittedly racist, 45 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Also, Roe V. Wade didn't extinguish anti-choice advocates - they're still alive and well in the US Congress.

I do agree that the Religious Right's strength is apparent in politics, but passing a law won't stop them - outnumbering them will. That group is only one-third of self-defined "religious" people in America.

So, we have a choice: we can either pass laws to make it harder for them OR we can enroll the two-thirds that will support our equality. If we do the latter, we will marginalize the Christian literalists and make them the "weak minority" instead of us. Laws can't do that.

Some constituents will never support us, but THEY are the minority, not those that support equality. We are paying attention to the wrong crowd. We are empowering them by inflating their numbers and their strength.

thinking about winning......thinking about winning.....thinking harder about winning....

Have we won yet?

looking forward to meeting you on ENDA lobby day Andrew.

Don't be silly. You can waste your time and even encourage others to waste their time, but most of understand that lobbying doesn't help.

In the last 40 years lobbying hasn't changed a single mind in the US Congress - not one. We've wasted hundreds of millions (HRC alone has received +$550 million) believing lobbying would lead to our victory. Now, we need some proof. Until then, we'll spend our time, energy and money on seeking a real, sustainable solution.

Andrew, the flaw in your argument it this:

The Christina evangelicals will never stop attacking us; reconciliation is blcked by two things: Leviticus and St Paul.

Sorry Maura, you are inflating the power of another minority: the Christian literalists, that I think you are defining as "Christian Evangelicals." This group is only one-third of those that consider themselves "religious." It's best to simply ignore them and let their behavior define them, not ours.

If you do the math, you will see we can actually WIN by enrolling the two-thirds. Yet, we do NOTHING in that regard.

We really need to get over our obsession with that other minority, the radical Christians. Until we do, we just keep fighting along.

The reality is that a lot of calls have been made to get supporters to call their National Representatives in the past two weeks. The calls have been asking those National Representatives to pass ENDA. Out of about each 50 calls 4 to 6 answered and 3-5 did not know anything about ENDA! From what I have observed the majority of people do not have any idea that Federal Employees and be fired in all sates for being Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual, Or especially Transgendered! Unless there can be a Major positive Press campaign with National Advertising showing positive images of LBGT's doing normal things! And Not being the the scum bags we are accused of being! Do We need to use the methods of Martin Luther King? Will That Help?

I think national advertising with very well done media campaigns would help. Instead we spend hundreds of millions lobbying (talking to politicians) instead of talking to our fellow citizens.

That 10 year old kid from Arkansas that refused to pledge allegiance "until gays and lesbians had full equality" and "liberty and justice for ALL" probably did more to change the cultural conversation than anything HRC did last year.

Sooner or later we have to make our case with "the people," neighbors, friends, co-workers and even strangers. We've have never organized to do that. We will soon.