Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Should GetEqual Have Targeted Rep. Chris Carney of PA for Playing Coy on LGBT Rights?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | September 10, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Chris Carney, Congress, direct action group, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Get Equal, GetEqual, Pennsylvania

The direct action LGBT rights group GetEqual this week targeted Representative Chris Carney of Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District for his failure to support ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would prohibit job discrimination against LGBT people.

They held a sit-in and a phone swarm. Here's Phil's post from yesterday, and I also ask that you call again.

Critics of GetEqual decried the action, noting that Rep . Carney is a good friend of the LGBT community. They said he's leaning towards supporting the bill, and that this action could upset him, undoing all the delicate work that more traditional LGBT advocacy groups have been working on for years. They said it could cause him to vote against ENDA.

Here's what I have to say: enough pussy-footing around.

Thank you, traditional advocacy groups, for massaging Chris Carney for the past several years, and getting him to the point where he might someday vote in favor of LGBT rights.

But come on, get real. If Rep. Carney is in favor of ENDA, and believes that LGBT people should be equal in the workplace, and thinks that the current law is unjust when it makes us have to worry every day on the job that someone might find out we're gay, or bisexual, or transgender -- then let him come out and say so. Let him say GetEqual is wrong -- they got the wrong guy, that he believes in equality. Enough of the closet -- both for LGBT people and for politicians' support of LGBT rights!

What do you think? Should GetEqual have targeted Rep. Carney in this way?

Last year, when I was working on ENDA, Rep. Carney's office told me that he was probably going to vote yes on ENDA, despite the fact that he had voted no on the hate crimes bill. He had voted yes on ENDA in 2007, and he was fine with the addition of gender identity.

I also arranged for a constituent in his district to meet with him in the summer of 2009. Although it required a good bit of rescheduling over several months, the meeting was evenutally held, and Rep. Carney enthusiastically said that he would vote for the inclusive ENDA.

But when I asked if he would co-sponsor the bill, or even confirm in writing that he was a yes vote, then I was told they would have to get back to me. And when I received that list of those Congressional officials who were not forthcoming on the issue of whether they would stab ENDA in the back on a motion to recommit -- guess whose name was right on there: Rep. Chris Carney!

It's people like this who are signaling Nancy Pelosi not to take a vote on ENDA.

And what for? As I noted, when I wrote about Rep. Carney's unconfirmed position that summer, that job protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity are no stranger to Pennsylvania.

Public employees in the state have been protected from job discrimination based on sexual orientation since 2002 and gender identity since 2003 as a result of Executive Order No. 2002-3 on equal employment opportunity.

The federal court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled in 2006 that transgender employees are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under the rubric of sex discrimination in the case of Mitchell v. Axcan Scandipharm, Inc., No. Civ.A. 05-243, 2006 WL 456173, at *223 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 17, 2006).

20 cities all across the state have policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, as well as 44 Fortune 1000 companies and many other companies across Pennsylvania.

So voting for ENDA isn't going to introduce some radical policy that is a stranger to Pennsylvania.

But I also noted then that Rep. Carney is a living political contradiction. He was one of only 17 Democrats to cross party lines to vote against HR 1913, the Hate Crimes Act. However, his 2006 Project Votesmart Political Awareness Test showed that he supported the additional of sexual orientation to the federal employment law, and he did vote in favor of the sexual orientation-only ENDA in 2007.

According to Wikipedia:

He opposes gay marriage, supports gun rights, and does not favor abortion, but supports family planning and comprehensive reproductive healthcare. While opposing Social Security privatization, he is open to adding private accounts. He supports federal investment in stem cell research, and is an advocate of universal healthcare.

The 10th had been in Republican hands since 1961, and had been made even more Republican when the state legislature cut out heavily Democratic Scranton in an effort to protect the previous Republican incumbent. In 1998 and 2000, the four-term Republican incumbent won by narrow margins. Revelations of the incumbent's extramarital affair and Carney's 30 labor union endorsements gave Carney a 53% to 47% win.

My point: Rep. Carney won with the endorsement of Labor. The AFL-CIO, the AFT, the UFT and other unions support an inclusive ENDA. So why won't Rep. Carney come out and state his position on an inclusive ENDA?

I understand and have some sympathy for the position of those who say we shouldn't target our friends. But is Chris Carney our friend? And GetEqual isn't only targeting Democrats. For example, Last week, GetEqual had a major action for Republican Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. Organizers in Indiana confronted Senator Lugar at a speaking event focusing on homeless youth, asking him to vote on an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and pointing out the fact that, because queer youth have no job protections in Indiana, many end up on the streets or in shelters.

But while we definitely need to get the word to Republicans that discrimination isn't cool, the ones with the ball in their hands right now are our "friends," the Congressional Democrats.

With friends like that, you don't need enemies.

Contact info: Christopher P. Carney (D-10) 202-225-3731 (Email)

In the interests of disclosure, I note that I am on the Board of Directors of GetEqual. My opinion does not necessarily reflect that of the organization.

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No. GetEQUAL's childish stunts do not help us and they do not make any sense.

Carley's District is +70% conservative and very religious. His constituents determine his position, not circus-styled publicity stunts.

Phone calls to Carney are a complete waste of time. If you insist on making silly phone calls, you may want to call his constituents. Dial away, the area code is 570.

GetEQUAL continues to be the personal goal of Jonathan Lewis (Progressive Insurance) to "embarrass Democrats." These childish stunts are counterproductive. Thankfully they are now almost completely ignored by the LGBT media.

I'm ambivalent on this.

But is Chris Carney our friend?

I think there's a problem if we even have to ask. He's not in the leadership and there are plenty plenty plenty of people not in the leadership who we're sure aren't our friends. Whatever, though, since while he's probably not the perfect target, he's still a decent target.

But this I find interesting in your post:

Last week, GetEqual had a major action for Republican Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. Organizers in Indiana confronted Senator Lugar at a speaking event focusing on homeless youth, asking him to vote on an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and pointing out the fact that, because queer youth have no job protections in Indiana, many end up on the streets or in shelters.

Really? They couldn't have asked for adequate funding for LGBT-focused queer youth shelters? There's definitely not enough and it's because of the money (also because lots of other homeless shelters discriminate against queers). The ENDA link seems kind of off - a 16-year-old who gets kicked out of her home for being a lesbian doesn't need the right to sue an employer should she somehow, against all odds, get a job in this economy at her age with not even a HS diploma and then get fired expressly for being lesbian; she needs a place to stay.

Why not just ask for gay marriage and say that if she could marry a rich lady at 16 she'd be set? It makes about as much sense.

Alex -

your point about holistic services for LGBT youth in IN is a good one. However, the connection with youth homelessness and ENDA isn't that much of a stretch to me.

ENDA is about much more than the right to sue. In my experience both in helping to educate folks about CA's law starting in '04 and later in providing counsel to employers about it, simply having these laws on the books creates much, much more awareness on the part of many employers about their duty to create nondiscriminatory workplaces and to stop harassing behavior.

Of course, the law alone isn't enough. But it does dramatically increase employment opportunities, particularly for the kind of inexperienced employee you highlight in your post.

What does seem to me to be a possible stretch, though, is the characterization of the Lugar action as "major." I live in Indy and haven't heard a thing about it. I looked online and could only find a brief mention at campusprogress. I didn't find any mention of it on Bilerico-Indiana, GetEqual's Facebook page, IN Stonewall Democrats, local media outlets, or anywhere else.

It is possible that I missed some coverage, but if not it seems like it was a really small action (particularly compared to actions against Pelosi, Reid, and Miller who are some of the most, if not THE most, LGBT supportive Congressional leaders in history). Jillian, am I missing something on the Lugar action?



"What does seem to me to be a possible stretch, though, is the characterization of the Lugar action as "major." I live in Indy and haven't heard a thing about it. I looked online and could only find a brief mention at campusprogress. I didn't find any mention of it on Bilerico-Indiana, GetEqual's Facebook page, IN Stonewall Democrats, local media outlets, or anywhere else."

No, it simply means that GetEQUAL is being ignored. Many of us have been working very hard to make sure the media ignores this group of misfits that DOESN'T represent even a fraction of the LGBT Community.

GetEQUAL is just a publicity stunt by Jontahan Lewis (Progressive Insurance) to "embarrass Democrats." It is childish and stupid. It is counterproductive.

OK, that's a good point about employment laws, but my point wasn't just that ENDA won't do anything for a 16-year-old, but that she shouldn't be working and instead should be in school. I suppose that "youth" may have been referring to people all the way up to 25, or higher now that buying a home or getting an apartment is harder and harder for 20-somethings, but if we want to increase queer employment for that age group we're going to have to do something about the out-of-control unemployment for both queer and straight youth due to the recession.

In other words, ENDA seems like such an odd thing to ask for when talking about homeless queer youth. Things that would make a bigger dent on the problem include better education and anti-bullying measures to keep queer kids in school, increased funding for youth homeless shelters, fighting discrimination in homeless shelters by actually fighting it instead of letting it slide because they're Christian or no one cares, funding for jobs so that younger people can get a job, and increasing cultural awareness of LGBT issues so that parents don't kick their kids out for being queer.

I really want ENDA to pass, really really really do, but queer youth homelessness is just an odd issue to tie it with, and by advocating ENDA in this context it steamrolls over much less visible issues: the lack of services for the homeless, for queer youth, and, especially, for queer homeless youth.

About the word "major": Thanks for making that point. This was the first I heard about this action too, and I scour the internet every day for a few hours for queer news stories for Page1Q and for Bilerico. I know lots of queer folks in Indiana, too, since I'm from Carmel, and no one even shot me an email.

Alex - 16 is IIRC the average age a gay or lesbian kid gets kicked out of home.

For trans and intersexed kids, its 13 1/2.

13 and a half? Well, obviously they need a job.

Alex - these are all good points re: homeless queer youth. There is certainly no shortage of work to be done to stitch together an effective safety net in IN.

I'm not sure advocates for ENDA harm that work or take needed attention away from it by highlighting the workplace issues so long as ENDA is framed as only one thing that needs to happen to support this population. Of course, I have no idea how these individual folks framed the issue but I'd be surprised if they portrayed ENDA as a panacea.

Re: use of "major," it does seem odd that the GetEqual facebook page doesn't even mention the action. I went back through several weeks of postings and didn't see anything. I just looked at their twitter feed as well and didn't find any mention there either.

Again, I may have missed something somewhere but it seems that GetEqual staff don't think the Lugar action was any big deal.

My guess is that this is just a basic miscommunication issue between board and staff. If so, it is a common error (especially with a new organization) that can be fixed over time; and, in the bigger picture, not really a big deal.

This is exactly why we need an up or down vote on the bill in both houses--win or lose--so that we can identify those folks that need to go. Sadly, that would have been a hell of a lot more helpful before the primaries.

If we have them on the record on these laws, noone will be able to say, anymore "Don't worry, they're coming around." Which is what they tell the advocacy groups knowing the advocacy groups will turn around and tell us.

That's not brave. What's brave is a Republican in a Republican district voting FOR the repeal of DADT even though she told Illinois veterans a few weeks before the vote that it would be a hard thing for her to do in her district. Rep. Judy Biggert put her political career on the line to do the right thing (okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, she probably didn't lose TOO many votes over that decision, but none of us expected her to do it after visiting her). You know who I'm going to support? Politicians with the GUTS to do the right thing. NOT politicians who say they'd like to some day, but secretly hope that vote never comes up and themselves do nothing to move it forward.

If we get that vote--win or lose--we'll know who to hit next primary, and even though that's a long ways away, we have got to start thinking more than 2-3 months down the road anymore. Its what leaves us in the dust every single time. We need a better long-range strategy, while still fighting tooth and nail for those short range victories.

We know where these politicians stand on ENDA by looking at polling data from the District/State. There is no mystery there. We know and they know.

A "better" long-range strategy? We don't have one. That's why we have GetEQUAL doing silly stunts and then pretending they are effective.

Politics and protest are not the solution - people are. People that we need to enroll. That takes more effort, but it actually works.

As best I can tell three people showed up for this "action" against Rep. Carney. One had the video camera. That's it - three people.

What more evidence do you need?

GetEQUAL needs to stop these childish stunts. Now. They are counterproductive and they make us look stupid. Childish and stupid.

What I find odd about this is that old mindset that "same sex" mean "same thinking". These Politicians whisper sweet nothings in our ears to get funds, infer that they will call the morning after and never do. These criticisms of Get Equal are getting tiring. Sometimes in any movement you have to "Kiss Ass" and sometimes you have to "Kick Ass". That old "don't piss them off",adage has had it's time. So every angle has to be covered and maybe a new organization, formed as a result of Elected Officials playing shell games , should be formed and call GET- EVEN. If we don't expect or demand results we won't get any. Maybe this event wasn't the most strategic thing to do, it has brought attention to another, elected official playing a game where we are the pawn..

I read recently a comment from a Gay Elected Official-Casey Evans from that region who posted on another site. He gave the impression that all is sort of well considering. I have written him for comments on my experience south of him and have gotten no acknowledgement or reply. So is it a Politician thing or a Gay thing?

This stunt didn't bring any attention to anything. These childish stunts are ignored by everyone but a half-dozen LGBT-Blogs.

It is childish to think that politicians even make "promises" and GetEQUAL lies every time they suggest that. They're all out of credibility. Hopefully they'll run out of money soon.

I suspect you are responding to my post- maybe not. You put the word "Promise" in quotes. I read my post many times and don't see me using that work-Promise, do you? I suspect you read between the lines filtered by your own bias.

Like any War for Equality, there are battles ,skirmishes and many different fronts for attack and defense. There are front lines, side lines, guerilla attacks in the Game. When I first saw the posting on another board- Toweroad, many of the comments were more about the couples Fashion Sense than their agenda. We can agree to disagree, but have to recognize that many Gay Folks Patience with Lip Service is wearing thin. Many your world view is rosy, but mine ain't.

Of course people are tired of "lip service" from politicians, but that's what you get from politicians. Acting like a child and doing silly publicity stunts doesn't change that reality.

The only way to change a politicians mind is to change their constituents minds. Bitching in the streets doesn't change any minds. Maybe it makes some self-described "activists" feel like heroes, but it is stupid and typically counterproductive.

The opposite of GetEQUAL isn't "patience," it is intelligence. We have to figure out how to win, not simply complain. Politics and protest are NOT the answer.

I'm the constituent who met with Congressman Carney, and I can tell you that he solidly promised me he would vote FOR ENDA. I told him my personal story and the discrimination I faced in employment and he really seemed to "get it." I'm still waiting for both his Republican opponent, and for Congressman Carney to come out with public statements on where they stand with regard to ENDA. Until I see some political courage my vote is in the "Undecided" column.

It is my opinion all those who hold public office should be held accountable to keep their promises. For too long we have allowed those whom we elect to keep some of their promises some of the time but not all of their promises all of the time. To me this shows a lack of credibility on their part and a lack of resolve on ours. So to my mind any Democrat or Republican who has ever uttered their support for Civil Rights ( which I would assume to be most all of them ) and sworn their intent to uphold the laws of this country ( which I consider to apply equally to everyone regardless if they are LGBT or not ) should be held to their words. Until we raise enough awareness in the fact we do not have equal rights ( I am always being told "I thought it was already illegal to discriminate by people" ) and hold those who we place in office, those who ask for our financial support, to account for their lack of progress on insuring our rights, they should be fair game.

As I recall the push on the part of Black Americans to get their rights it took about 100 years between the time they were freed from Slavery until the Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Are we willing to wait another 100 years to get the same Civil Rights for LGBT Americans? If not then I say protest. Make as much noise as possible but do it in something of an orderly manner. Stop up the works but do not offend more than necessary. Hopefully enough people will then bring this to a vote and get the legislation passed that has been waiting for decades. Who knows perhaps they will even add a few lines to that Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include us who fall under the LGBT umbrella.

"Make as much noise as possible but do it in something of an orderly manner. Stop up the works but do not offend more than necessary. Hopefully enough people will then bring this to a vote and get the legislation passed that has been waiting for decades."

Making noise and/or "offending people" won't change any minds or votes. It never has and it never will.

A thousand jaws just dropped at the big ACT UP meeting in the sky.

Andrew, please go back and reread your history.

You can't keep playing your "Act Up" card Phil. That was 15-20 years ago. People were dying. It's 2010, protest is only seen as irritation and not as being effective or productive. That's why you, Jillian and GetEQUAL can't find any evidence or rationale for these silly circus-like protests.

After the street closing in SF people were pissed off (look at the comments on the San Francisco Chronicle) and even the LGBT websites. It did nothing to inspire or threaten Pelosi and only pissed everyone else off. How the fu*k does that help?

The world has changed Phil. The few remaining organizations using protest and childish street theater are simply considered misfits. Most of us have figured out those actions hurt us, not help us.