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.