The American Equality Bill is a proposed federal law that will amend all existing federal civil rights laws to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity".
Drafted by Karen Doering, an attorney who has been involved in some of the most important legal LGBT victories and controversies, the bill takes the approach that piecemeal bills for various areas of discrimination -- employment and housing and credit and so on -- will take too long and too many resources to be really successful.
It also recognizes that creating separate bills in separate areas breaks the interests of those against discrimination into small, separate pieces that dilutes the strong force of the coalition necessary to pass any bill on the federal level.
This is a very bold idea -- an idea that some would call "pie-in-the sky." That is to say, impossible. But at the same time, the idea has been endorsed by no less than Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who was so instrumental in putting Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal on the Congressional agenda after it had languished so long that it seemed impossible to move in this Congressional session.
The bill would end discrimination in vast areas of life: employment, housing, credit, public places and facilities, and all programs operating with federal funding. It would cover school discrimination and bullying, adoption, and all federal health programs.
Is this a good idea?
According to the Facebook page created by one of the bill's backers, Todd Fernandez, The AEB would include us equally in the Federal Non-Discrimination "group policy" that now covers "race, color, sex, religion, and national origin."
In sum, the passage of the AEB will make Non-Discrimination against us the official US Governmental Policy.
More importantly, perhaps, than the ultimate purpose of the AEB, working to file and pass the AEB will stimulate real conversation about our suffering under discrimination, and the means of beginning to combat the homophobia and transphobia that are transmitted in the culture along with mother's milk.
As noted on the Facebook page, and in a conference call held yesterday, the people putting forward this AEB idea are not interested in a "command and control" structure to moving the bill. Their idea is that the push must come from the grassroots, and they are committed to empowering the grassroots to support the bill.
There are a lot of objections to this idea -- perhaps some African-Americans won't like it because it opens up the Civil Rights Act to changes, it takes on too many areas, it doesn't make enough concessions to homophobic and transphobic Congressmembers.
At the same time, the piecemeal approach seems to have been a disaster. For example, ENDA was first proposed in 1996, and it is still languishing fourteen years later. Representative Jackie Speier last week said it would take another five years.
Perhaps we have been looking through the wrong end of the telescope?
What do you think?