Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

What Do We Want? And When Do We Want It? ENDA NOW

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | March 26, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: Cleve Jones, employment discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Pelosi, petition

The media and the blogosphere are starting to blossom with stories about ENDA on speculation that it will come to a vote in the House in two weeks. Compared to other LGBT issues, there have been very few stories about ENDA in the past year, a source of considerable frustration to me.

However, all's well that ENDA's well, and I'm pleased to see all of the publicity that ENDA is getting. It may even have been a good thing that ENDA did not have a high profile, because correspondingly less time was spent by anti-ENDA forces as well.

It looks like ENDA will go, but again, it's not so until we hear it from Speaker Pelosi. As we know, she has some reservations. I think the petition and the open letter from Cleve Jones will be helpful in persuading her. So again I ask that you sign the National Petition For ENDA, if you haven't already, and send it along to your friends and relations:


Of all the articles out there on ENDA today, my favorite is from "Just Out," a blog based on Portland, Oregon, which featured a post entitled "ENDA Blogswarm Moves Forward with Pelosi Petition." It gives me a feeling of Blogger Power, though the petition is really technically separate from the ENDA blogswarm. The petition was started by GetEqual, teaming up with the Courage Campaign. But you know what? We're all working on the same side, so hey, yeah baby, on with the blogswarm!

By the way, if any of you have websites, I have a great widget you can put on your sites so that people can sign up right there without leaving your site. Drop me a line if you want it.

Well, Congress is on recess after tomorrow for two weeks. But you're not on vacation. No way. You're busy emailing friends and relations getting this petition signed.

Here it is again in case you forgot. http://www.getequal.org/SpeakerPelosi_blog

By the way, the DADT enforcement changes have just been announced, and I have a sneaking suspicion that's all she wrote on DADT for this year. They'll declare victory, and say they're going to work really hard on that study next year. Really, really hard.

This whole year has been a real education for me in politics -- the real politics of DC. They announce X is going to happen, and then they work on Y instead. Y is all the rage for a while, until suddenly Z is unveiled and everyone celebrates Z. No one remembers X and Y, and if asked, they frown and say it was never on the table, or that it will happen next year. But Z fades in popularity, and suddenly, X comes back with a vengeance, and Y gets passed into law.

I'm not sure whether ENDA is X, Y or Z, but I'm going to keep working on it until the buzzer runs out.

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Two years ago, it was imperative ENDA become law, according to Democrat senators and congesspersons. The Senate and the House actually agreed on a bill, and decided to get it to the White House, sooner, by including that bill as an amendment to another bill.

It was so important, that amendment was attached to a vital bill which the President simply could not veto, right? Like a bill extending funding for the Iraq and/or Afghanistan wars, huh?

Both parties have a vested interest in keeping us, legally, exactly where we are. Both parties need us as a campaign issue: Republicans to scare their constituents that the big, bad faggots are coming (lock up your children, pray for the world!), and Democrats to accumulate funds from the queers in exchange for the same promises they've made, verbatim, for almost 25 years.

A Democrat controlled House, Senate and Presidency.. Our Fierce Advocate in the White House... as a community, we've never been told more clearly from by our federal elected officials: "Fuck off. You got nothin' coming!"

Trusting politicians to save us, instead of taking responsibility for ourselves, will always lead to frustration and failure - unless we get the support of our fellow citizens.

The LGBT Community is not doing that. Instead we focus on 535 politicians who have proven time and time again they we are simply pawns in their game. To beat them we need to transform ourselves from a "weak minority" to "powerful majority." That means we must add to our ranks. We must get fellow citizens to join us in support of full equality.

Of course ENDA should be passed, but it won't until we "own" enough Senators. We own them by enrolling their constituents. Petitions, blogswarms, demonstrations, civil disobedience and even lobbying politicians does NOT enroll our fellow citizens.

We are spending all our resources on a game we cannot win until we target constituents.

Angela Brightfeather | March 26, 2010 3:07 PM

"Petitions, blogswarms, demonstrations, civil disobedience and even lobbying politicians does NOT enroll our fellow citizens."

Andrew, sometimes I think that you have blinders on. How do you think that we have gotten this far anyway? Every action we take in public allows others to speak more openly and discuss the issues.

It's a good thing that the American POC and people like Dr. King did not take your advice, we would still be fighting slavery. When your right about it and people "see" that, it helps to give them the courage to join you openly.

You should sit back and cool your heels a bit and stop saying that you are so right, when you are so wrong to limit and downplay the actions taken by others on your behalf. Even if your to stubborn to admit it, the truth is that your way is only one way and there are many others of changing minds.

You do it your way and others will do it their way and we will all meet some day soon to celebrate. But evewn then I never admit that your way is the only way.

I didn't even suggest a "way," Angela. If you believe there is any evidence that these stunts help us, share it.

It is 2010 and Dan Choi is not Dr. Martin Luther King. We don't need attention and if you haven't noticed people have been "speaking out" everywhere. That's the result of a changing cultural conversation. It's not the result of public displays of anger and frustration.

We need people to join us. How do these stunts accomplish that? Connect the dots. Make sense of it. It's too lazy to suggest it worked 40 years ago and it will work today. If it really does work, tell us how.

It works through repetition.

It works because the first two or three times Mr. and Mrs. America in Ohio hear about it in the news, they come down in the camp of: "Oh, those horrible homosexuals!!!"

But by the time they've heard about it the 20th or 30th time, Mr. and Mrs. America in Ohio start to think: "Hmmm. What has these fags so pissed off, anyway?" and begin to do the most rudimentary of research.

Finally, by the time they've gotten news reports about the 200th or 300th time, Mr. and Mrs. Ohio American have slightly come around, and begun to believe - while they might still not actively believe they believe - that official stance and policy is misplaced.

When I left home over 25 years ago, it was shortly after my father - after seeing news footage of an ACT-UP demonstration in NYC - made the statement, very casually: "You know, Betty, they should just take all these fags and put 'em on an island someplace. Let them fend for themselves and all die off." My mother agreed with him.

I never flat-out told them I was gay; within the year, I would accidentally out myself on national television via CNN. Up until the time my mother passed away in February, 2009, there had been almost no contact between me and my parents - no birthday or Christmas cards... nothing but a very occasional phone call on my side to them.

But over the 25 years we were separated, something happened to my parents; the Saturday before she died, I was able to speak to my mother in her hospital room (a phone call placed completely by accident, when I just hit "redial" on a phone call I received from my sister the night before). Turns out, I was one of the last persons to have a cogent conversation with her; shortly after our five-minute call, she returned to a nonresponsive state, eventually dying three and a half days later.

In May of last year, my father and I met at his sister's house in Beckley, WV. He met (and likes) Bill. I was able to take my 80-year old father (an original Trekkie) to the new Star Trek film, alone. I'm not going to lie and say we've found a relationship akin to Eddie and Mr. Eddie's Father, but there's been a sea change in his attitude to me.

Turns out, over the past couple of decades, he decided to do a little research on his own.

He educated himself.

He freely admits he did so because of my making it "official" in my outing, and the "marches and stuff" he's seen happening, even in his little town in Ohio.

Andrew, the "tact of assimilation" was taken, literally, since time began and persons started separating other persons off into "positions of power" to establish laws.

You way has never worked; your ways led to the criminalization of homosexuality, or the labeling of being homosexual as a perversion; both led to harsh enforced entrapment of gays and lesbians in prisons and psychiatric facilities - such punishments were still going on in this country up until the 1980s.

I'd suggest, Andrew, you do what my father did: Research. Educate yourself. Simply sitting quiet - for any minority group in this country - and waiting for the "people who set the rules" to do the right thing only resulted in angry members of that minority group because the BIGGEST "right thing" for those in power is to not change the status quo, since it is the status quo that has kept them in power.


First of all, I am not suggesting "assimilation," and I never have. I have suggested creating equality is OUR job, not HRC or any other organization. I've also suggested, with evidence, that "laws" will not create our equality.

People DO change, as you have shown, but they don't change because we're angry, they change because they grow and understand. That is the result of communication, not demonstration or protest.

People in America know about us. I would suggest that talking to them a few times, compared to smacking them hundreds of times, is much more efficient.

As a movement we don't invest in enrolling people to stand with us. HRC does not. Activists like Cleve Jones and his new GetEqual bunch do not.

HRC relies almost entirely on lobbying. For 30 years they have played politics and assured us THEY could convince politicians to change their minds. They have failed miserably.

GetEqual is now employing the David Mixner strategy that we need to create attention by generating publicity with stunts. It is a simple strategy that claims (see GetEquals website) that if enough of us simply DEMAND we will achieve our equality. There is no "how" attached to that.

We are a small minority that really doesn't have any influence in elections or lobbying. We can win if we get over the idea of being an "oppressed minority needing protections" and we get people to support us and stand with us. We can create a new, powerful majority - but we instead fall for tactics from the past.

The only way to change a politician's mind/vote is to change their constituents. We do nothing in that regard. We will not succeed until we add to our ranks. That doesn't happen by shouting at them or engaging in street-theater.

Too many activists seem to be more interested in wearing some sort of badge of honor from the past, than determining what actually helps us win. They are actors in a Play that lost it's audience decades ago. They would be much more valuable if they simply had conversations (like you did) with people who don't understand. That would be progress.

I appreciate your comment and the story you shared. I believe your Father did his "research" because he cared about you, not because people were yelling in the streets. We should learn to make it easier for people to understand us.

Attitudes towards the LGBT community have changed dramatically as a result of the changing cultural conversation, we should do everything we can to continue THAT effort. Politics and street theater are not part of that. We are. Politics is shaped by the cultural conversation. We are focused on the wrong target. The people we need are not Members of Congress or Judges, they are our neighbors, friends, co-workers and even strangers. Only WE can change their "understanding." Only WE can get them to support us.

Then you go your merry way and say "Please" and "Thank You."

Just don't take credit for any change that actually belongs to the Dan Chois of the world.

Please read what I wrote and Thank-you.

I suppose I will never understand why a country which is supposed to be the shining example of freedom and equality, has so many problems implementing it in practice. It has taken countless lives and ruined countless others but we still have a significant percentage of the overall population here deprived of the rights that are supposed to be given to all in the Constitution. It took the deadliest war to the population of this country to remove the legality of Slavery and it took almost 100 years more for those victims of that Slavery to really start getting their Rights. It took almost 150 years for Women to be given the right to vote and they are the Majority. How many lives will still be ruined by those who thrive on hate and bigotry? I have heard it suggested again that a non-inclusive ENDA be considered again. That we in essence allow some group to continue to be deprived of rights. How is this right? It has been over 225 years since we are supposedly given the right to "Life,Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" but if people who march to a slightly different drum are not allowed to those rights, we are all somehow lesser for it. I just do not understand the reasoning to allow the inequality to continue. Of course some sight the Bible but I thought this country was supposed to also have a separation of church and state? How long are children to be thrown out of school for being themselves? Someone be socially shunned by a public entity like a school? How long will someone be deprived of their livelihood or housing when they just are themselves? How long are we to see a social acceptance of young people to be banished from towns in which they live because of bigots being unchecked or challenged?

I wrote my Congressman a Republican, asking him to support ENDA. I got a reply back stating that he supported equal rights but not special rights for a given group. In other words leave me the hell alone you stupid trannie, you do not count for much. We as a group can continue to fight among ourselves on tactics, or we can push forward in every way and front possible, each as is within their ability to do so. By reaching out to our neighbor to lend a hand, or to badger our Representatives on local, state and national levels. We need to win the neighbor next door, and the Senator in Washington too. To do less even is telling people in places like Fulton Mississippi it is OK for them to be small minded prigs. That they have the right to hate and be bigots because they live in a social group locally that accepts, even encourages bigotry and hate. Until we all can have the legal right to be who we are, none of us are truly free to realize the dream which is supposed to be this country. So protest, make phone calls, write letters and emails, send Faxes, work at winning "hearts and minds" as much as is possible. Make it impossible for those who would keep Bigotry alive the minority.

Hopefully we will see ENDA move forward to passage. Hopefully we will see DADT disappear as a policy. Of course also the final hurdle of allowing people regardless of their Sex to marry and be families. History has shown that the struggle to gain rights is not easy. Few times in history have the minority been given their rights without a struggle. We need to show the resolve we must to gain that which is almost within the grip of us all.

Count me as surprised as well that the right hasn't worked much on ENDA. It might be because tax and deficit issues are all the rage for these folks and outside of the professional moral scolds have much time to spend thinking about this. It may also be because, just like ENDA is low on our priorities because it isn't marriage or DADT, the right has the same sort of hierarchy and they just don't pay as much attention either.

I'll also say that this year has been a lesson in the way DC works, and I haven't been as active on a specific issue as you have. But I think that with the crazies out of power (officially) and the obvious brick wall on good legislation down, there's more of a process for there to be a problem with.