Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Going Offline To Get ENDA On Line: What We Need To Do Now

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | April 10, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA

It's looking more and more like a vote on ENDA is going to be a reality. When exactly is not yet known, but on Monday, Congress will be back in session, and I hear that final scheduling will begin. capslock.jpg

A "markup" must precede a whip count, and a whip count must precede a House vote, and each of these items requires notice, so I don't think we'll see a House vote before May 1.

That's good, because we need some time to organize.

It's not enough to write emails, and though telephone calls are good, what's better is the community organizing to show support. Frankly, I think ENDA is going to pass the House by a large majority, but the Senate backers, Merkley and Harkin, are weak on the issues, and are going to need a lot of help.

While the news sounds optimistic, and it is, there is some serious counter-pressure. We can't sit on the sidelines behind our computers while this is happening. If there's not some serious cheering from the LGBT side of the stands, egging on our leaders, they will fold at crunch time. It happens all the time.

I think we ought to be organizing rallies in the key states and districts where the votes are closest to the line. That means the Senate, and that means The Nine. I refer to the 9 possible Senate yes votes that have not yet committed, Murkowski, Pryor, Lincoln, Bill Nelson, Lugar, Hagan, Conrad. Voinovich and Byrd.

That means getting neighbors together and working on getting emails of supporters together, telephone conference calls of people willing to organize, conversations with supportive family, friends and neighbors, scheduling rallies and informational meetings. And not in Washington DC, but in Juneau, Little Rock, Miami, Indianapolis, Raleigh, Bismarck, Cleveland and Charleston.

A bunch of emails and letters doesn't cut it. A blog post about a few people who sent in letters in Butte doesn't cut it. Four people waving signs at the side of the road outside the statehouse doesn't cut it. Either we will have mass community support, or we will wait for another shot at ENDA down the road.

When This Is Happening

According to the Advocate, a source with knowledge of the process said the floor vote was likely to be scheduled first, at which point the committee vote would then be coordinated to precede it by about a week.

The source said that representatives Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, and Polis would undertake an informal vote count (known as a "whip count" in Hill patois) upon returning from recess on April 12 and, assuming the numbers look good, majority whip Jim Clyburn would launch an official whip count while the Democratic leadership worked on scheduling a floor vote.

So that will take time, and that will give us time.

We're going to need a strong, diverse strategy.

Who Needs To Do What And When

We're going to need the advocacy organizations, like HRC, The Task Force, NCLR, and NCTE, which have staffs and budgets to weigh in on Capitol Hill with their suave lobbyists and glossy flyers.

Equally important are the state organizations, that have connections to local people who can be mobilized to bring local pressure to bear in the district.

We also need people who can bring respectful civil disobedience to bear when that type of pressure is needed.

Lastly, the most important element is spontaneous community organizing in local areas. While some organizations have some facility with this, like HRC, which has been continuously working in the background on the weak links through community organizing, like Rep. Bill Owens from upstate New York, and the Diaz-Balart brothers in Florida, we need locals successfully organizing the local community to talk to those legislators and demand equality through meetings and rallies.

Organizations are good, but it is no substitute for individuals standing together in solidarity. At the same time, organizations can be helpful in bringing that about. We need a partnership between our federal and state organizations -- and we have one. It's called United ENDA. I hope that the people running United ENDA will use their connections to bring about community organizing from the ground up (not the top down). Parachuting someone in from DC to hold a rah rah session and post a note online about it does not cut it. They are going to have to work with local activists, many of whom are not necessarily tony white-shoe suavity machines, but who want justice for their communities. They're contradictory, weighed down by day-jobs, not always quick to return phone calls or to go along with the corporate line, but they are essential in this fight.

Did you notice how Organizing For America handled health care reform? They collected millions of emails and used them not only to ask people to call their legislators, but also organized local meetings and info sessions and rallies. They had websites you could go to that would give you five names of local supporters in the swing districts, and you could call them and ask them to call their legislators or attend a meeting. I did that several times. With all the money our community has, why don't we have those things at work?

Why We're Having Problems In The Senate And What To Do About it

One thing I'm thankful for is that freshman Senator Jeff Merkley, whose silence on ENDA suggests that he is overwhelmed by his new job and not up to leading in this fight, is not being left to twist in the wind by the Dems. As the Advocate reports, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa is also playing a central role in shepherding the measure since he chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. In 1990, Harkin sponsored and helped pass the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities. Obviously he knows how to make legislation happen, but I'm concerned about his understanding of the issues.

Frankly, I think Senator Harkin frankly needs a kick in the pants too, after his Senate hearing omitted any transgender witnesses, the one thing that HRC is now bemoaning that the Senate doesn't have enough education on.

As reported in The Advocate story, Alison Herwitt, HRC's legislative director acknowledged that the Senate poses more hurdles because of that issue. "We still need to continue to do education in the Senate around the gender identity language," she said, adding that House members were much more proficient on the issue."

Where were these people when the trans-less Senate hearing was being organized?

And then The Advocate story quotes a source familiar with Harkin that made me cringe:

"It's doable this year, but far from assured," said the source, adding that Harkin has personally vowed to help lobby his colleagues one-on-one for the bill. "He's committed to working on it. It's going to require a lot of work with the moderates to convince them that this isn't an election loser."

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Get Moving

HRC and NCTE and the other orgs are going to need to offer daily assistance to the state organizations that actually have people on the ground in those cities, and GetEqual, Equality Across America and JoinTheImpact are going to need to start calling meetings in those cities where we need feet on the ground.

Hey DC orgs, what are you willing to do to help local activists in those cities?

Hey grassroots orgs like Get Equal, Equality Across America and Join The Impact, what are you willing to do to help local activists in those cities.

Hey local people in those cities, what are you willing to do to get job equality?

Get offline, get organized.

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Meghan Stabler Meghan Stabler | April 10, 2010 1:48 PM

Great article Jillian, but I can't held thinking that the call for organizing this should have happened a while back, now we need to be in a full court press, and a sprint. I am pleased that you pointed out the work that HRC has continued to steadfastly do on an inclusive ENDA. They are the lobbying organization and have not wavered on this since I joined the business council and the board of directors, despite what the nay-sayers and some emerging equality groups may think.

As you say, we are days away from ENDA getting to the floor, but work is still needed to be done.

If HRC has been effective with lobbying, who have they convinced or persuaded to change their position on ENDA?

I have more questions:

1. How will HRC be scoring Members who fail to support a fully inclusive ENDA on their Congressional Score card this year?

2. What public actions will HRC be taking to hold Members accountable if they fail to support and pass ENDA into law this year?

3. When will we see as public and well-funded a campaign to pass ENDA from HRC as we've seen in the past on same-sex marriage and DADT?

Meghan, I've been calling for this and working on this for a year and a half - what do you mean the call for this should have happened earlier? Are you saying I'm all washed up?

Meghan Stabler Meghan Stabler | April 12, 2010 9:46 AM

Jill, not at all! You know me better than that. There is a long list of actions that are called out in the article. One would liked to have seen this as part of the plan for a while that should have been put into action by our leading Transgender advocacy organization - NCTE.

You have done a tremendous job in identifying opportunities to call members of congress and either move them to a co-sponsor or a verbal yes. So no. Not calling you on this in anyway.

Thank you for the hard work you have done persistently on this.

Angela Brightfeather | April 11, 2010 12:19 AM

Here are a few more questions I have about what HRC is doing.

I live in NC and it has been rumored that certain HRC members of the Trans community who work for HRC are trying to get a meeting going with NC Dem. Senator Hagan. The problem with that is that I have not heard anything from anyone about any other Trans people being invited to this shindig. What do we have to do, break down the doors at HRC to find out when this meeting is going to happen, and how about a few other activists getting invited? Or is it that HRC just does not want to share the stage with others and then turn around and take all the credit if Senator Hagen votes aye on ENDA? What's the story Meghan?

Here is another question.

Why is HRC taking funds and endorsing a fundraising event for themselves in Charlotte, NC next month that is a Drag Race? Great way to make friends with the Trans community there hey? Lets see how funny we can make Trans people look in the eyes of others. We just can't find any other way to make money, other than have a Drag Race and have everyone laughing their fool heads of out there at a bunch of gay men wearing high heels, wigs and frocks and racing down the main street of a major Southern city. I guess that since Charlotte is known as the "Queen City" though, it's a cool thing to do.

Both of these things not only show a lack of respect for the feelings of Trans people and activists in NC, but they are not what one would expect from one's allies.

Meghan, exactly what is it with Trans people who support HRC and can't see that there are a bunch of double standards there. Our sisters and brothers are getting killed out here at an alarming rate and HRC is conducting activities and raising funds by makeing other people laugh at them. Are they stupid or are Trans people like you who work with them, so out of touch with reality and what they are doing, or so blinded by their magnificent display of tactics, that you can't see any more need to educate them about what they are doing wrong, or both?

Sorry. More than a few questions in my post.

raphaela chaim-anshel | April 11, 2010 12:31 AM

what i could now as an individual jill? should i write senatot harkley, etc...? great article and informastive as usual.....love rafa

Stay tuned, Rafa. Instructions will be given...

I think it would be a good idea to contact as many LGBT groups in the appropriate areas (especially on college and university campuses) and get them to commit to having a physical presence. Also maybe contact some companies in those areas who support the LGBT communities. Maybe GLAAD can help?

HRC won't answer any questions because they don't have any answers.

My unit secretary has a sign at her desk:

Answers... $1
Dumb looks... Free

Maybe we should have a sign that says:

Answers... $1
Dumb looks... $35 million

HRC and the Task Force - need only look to Moveon.org, or Health Care for America to see what an modern-issues campaign really looks like.

In stead, we have a bunch of passive-inert life-sucking letter-writing efforts (see for examples endanow.org, or unitedenda).

A proactive campaign has much more to it. Some people on the boards of these groups PLEASE LOOK AROUND at how it's really done these days, and fix these broken structures - which haven't evolved at all in decades. For starters: boards should be meeting MONTHLY, not quarterly. We should be in full campaign mode, not lackadaisical equality sometime... mode.

Jillian - we need this digested: What Senators, in Which States, What Key Pressure points. And When should we act?

FROM HRC: WE NEED A COORDINATED PUBLIC CAMPAIGN and DIRECTION. Timing, events, call for SOMETHING!!!!!! You are silent - while you gather "72,036 HRC supporters" on Constance's back!


House Committee on Education and Labor


•George Miller, Chairman (CA-07)
•Dale E. Kildee (MI-05)
•Donald M. Payne (NJ-10)
•Robert E. Andrews (NJ-01)
•Robert C. Scott (VA-03)
•Lynn C. Woolsey (CA-06)
•Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15)
•Carolyn McCarthy (NY-04)
•John F. Tierney (MA-06)
•Dennis J. Kucinich (OH-10)
•David Wu (OR-01)
•Rush D. Holt (NJ-12)
•Susan A. Davis (CA-53)
•Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07)
•Timothy H. Bishop (NY-01)
•Joe Sestak (PA-07)
•Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
•Mazie Hirono (HI-02)
•Jason Altmire (PA-04)
•Phil Hare (IL-17)
•Yvette Clarke (NY-11)
•Joe Courtney (CT-02)
•Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01)
•Marcia Fudge (OH-11)
•Jared Polis (CO-2)
•Paul Tonko (NY-21)
•Pedro Pierluisi (PR)
•Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands)
•Dina Titus (NV-3)
•Judy Chu (CA-32)


•John Kline, Ranking Member (MN-02)
•Thomas E. Petri (WI-06)
•Howard "Buck" McKeon (CA-25)
•Peter Hoekstra (MI-02)
•Michael N. Castle (DE-At Large)
•Mark E. Souder (IN-03)
•Vernon J. Ehlers (MI-03)
•Judy Biggert (IL-13)
•Todd Russell Platts (PA-19)
•Joe Wilson (SC-02)
•Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05)
•Tom Price (GA-06)
•Rob Bishop (UT-01)
•Brett Guthrie (KY-2)
•Bill Cassidy (LA-6)
•Tom McClintock (CA-4)
•Duncan D. Hunter (CA-52)
•David P. Roe (TN-1)
•Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA-05)

Metro-South Boston, just waiting for some leadership... How can I help? What can I do? Boston... STAND UP!

If any of you are looking around, and waiting for someone else to stand up -- that just means it's time for you to stand up.

And if you're thinking that you're not good enough, old enough, smart enough, connected enough, that just confirms that you're the right person to stand up, because you have the proper amount of humility and respect for the job.

The reason other people who are better, older, smarter, and more connected aren't standing up -- is because they're scared to lose all that.

It's you who have nothing to lose -- and everything to gain -- who are the right ones to stand up.

So stand up, Nikki. Call some friends and have a brainstorming meeting about how to make something happen in Boston. Get in touch with other, more established organizations, and tell them what you're doing and make them help you. Call then every day if necessary. Start calling and emailing people to call your Representatives and Senators about ENDA. Make posters and put them up on telephone poles, pool your money and put an ad on Facebook, talk to local college pride groups and have a day of action -- I don't know exactly, but do something, anything and everything.

Our community has no action leaders. No one is going to save us. Do you think anyone annointed me a leader? No, in fact our leaders have mostly criticized me behind my back, told me I didn't know what I was doing, and ignored me as much as possible. But I'm not in this for them, or for glory or money, so I ignore that and just keep smiling -- and moving forward to up the ante as much as possible. The reward for being good is goodness, and that reward is only meaningful to good people. If you're looking for other rewards, fuhgeddaboutit.

We have only ourselves, and you. Tell us what you have decided to do. The world awaits you.

Tim Johnson - IL -- "no."

We live in a state with these protections, yet Johnson can't support them Federally. I run into Johnson almost every single day. He walks and bikes and works out a lot. It turns my stomach every time I do see him.