Guest Blogger

Will MassEquality Support Sen Brown in 2012?

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 31, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: election campaigns, ENDA, endorsed candidates, LGBT, MassEquality, rights, scott brown

Editors' note: Kara Suffredini is executive director of MassEquality.

KaraSuffrediniVERT.jpgAs Sen. Scott Brown embarks on his re-election bid - the latest news in that regard is that he's sitting on a $7 million war chest - I have been asked repeatedly whether Brown's vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," would earn him MassEquality's support in 2012.

The short answer? No. Not if supporting repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is all Brown does to address the needs of the LGBT community.

Brown deserves praise for breaking with his party to vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He was one of only eight Senate Republicans to do so. And the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is an enthusiastically welcome and hopeful step in the right direction. But there is much more work left to be done.

Rates of HIV infection are high in our community, while funding to fight this pandemic is stagnating at current levels and decreasing. It's legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation in 29 states, and because of their gender identity in 38 states, including Massachusetts. Same-sex couples can marry in only five states and the District of Columbia, but no marriage is yet honored by the federal government.

Healthy People 2020, the federal government's ambitious 10-year agenda for improving the nation's health, identifies significant health care disparities between the LGBT community and the general population ranging from higher rates of substance abuse and obesity to lower rates of health care access. And it's now unmistakably part of the public consciousness that anti-LGBT bullying is leading some LGBT youth, and those perceived to be, to end their lives.

If Brown is interested in our support - and we certainly hope he is - he has plenty of opportunity to earn it between now and 2012. Here's how he can do it.

First and foremost, he can back the rights of every LGBT person in America to earn a living. The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act would prohibit employers from firing employees on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. We can think of no reason why Brown would oppose it, especially since Brown has made economic revitalization such an important part of his legislative agenda.

He can support the Uniting American Families Act and the Respect for Marriage Act. The first would end the practice of making bi-national same-sex couples choose between their families and their country by allowing American citizens sponsor their same-sex partners for family-based immigration. The second would permit all lawfully married couples in the United States to receive the benefits of marriage offered under federal law.

He can follow the lead of Massachusetts, which passed an anti-bullying law last year, and support the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Together, these bills would prevent discrimination and bullying against all youth in schools and help our youth focus on what they go to school to do: learn.

He can support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would expand the number of potential families available for children in need of foster and adoptive homes by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status when placing children with families.

As a vocal proponent of family values, we can think of no reason why the Senator would oppose any of these measures.

Will we be supporting Sen. Brown in 2012? It's up to Brown.

The sentence which read "The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act would prohibit employers from firing employees on the basis of their sexual orientation." was updated to read "The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act would prohibit employers from firing employees on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity." --Ed.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Kathy Padilla | January 31, 2011 2:27 PM

"The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act would prohibit employers from firing employees on the basis of their sexual orientation."

Is MassEquality forgetting someone again?

And perhaps there's some specific issues regarding trans people that could be added to the list.

Why should now be different than any other time, Kathy? We've seen and heard it all before too many times. Just SSDD...

Kathy Padilla | January 31, 2011 3:00 PM

The quality of inclusion is not strained.

That's some fine political work there, Lou.

As someone that works closely with MassEquality as part of Mass Transgender Political Coalition's for Transgender Equal Rights here in Massachusetts - I know the folks at MassEquality are committed to equal rights for the L, G, B, and the T. The rest of article spelled out SO and GI and I believe it was misstep in writing not in how the organization sees ENDA. MassEquality, like MTPC is member of the Equality Federation, the coalition of state LGBT advocacy groups, which was and still is at the forefront of calling passage of an inclusive ENDA.

Gunner Scott

Gunner, though we've never met, your reputation precedes you, and it's quite an impressive one. The same, however, is true for MassEquality, and their reputation is quite different. Given what we see here, it doesn't appear much has changed for ME since Marc Solomon and the big-money marriage activists blew outta there for greener pastures once their own pet issue was won.

With all due respect, Gunner, I don't think what we're seeing here should fill any Mass. transperson with confidence that things are any different with this org now.

Kathy Padilla | January 31, 2011 9:11 PM

They were committed when they put marriage ahead of including trans folks in nondiscrim protections and hate crimes protections glb folks enjoyed. They were committed when they put the rights of out of state gays to marry above that equity and then they were committed when they put the safe schools bill ahead of trans employment & public accommodation equity.

And their model of commitment to trans equality is now being exported to other states.

If they're at the forefront - why were you always left behind?

Thanks, Gunner.

As for the rest of the folks commenting, unless you are a transperson who lives in MA, and has been part of the meetings, efforts behind the work, I suggest you listen to Gunner.

Because he knows.

Kathy Padilla | February 1, 2011 3:35 PM

As regards the history:

"we made an oral deal about 20 years ago in MA with our gay partners in MA about marriage (first to keep trans people and trans rights invisible"

A trans guy from MA deeply involved in federal legislation.

that was with Mass. Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

Mass Equality isn't them, and they certainly are not Mass Equality. Not even remotely tied together.

20 years ago, MGLPC was the only show in town. I would agree that was the case with that organization.

Kathy Padilla | February 3, 2011 9:44 AM

Except you were part of both? At least according to Tom's comment.

The MGLP and WEQ had the exact same policy of stifling trans rights in favor of every other gay right that came along - and denying publicly that they were doing so. Now - you say this has changed in the last year or two. Which would be a good thing. It can be a good thing without erasing the past. MEQ needs to acknowledge this and stop trying to whitewash our history.

Except - have you fully implemented this stated change? Mass Equality broadened it's mission to work on marriage throughout New England - but did not broaden it's mission to work on trans equality throughout New England. The same set of priorities is being implemented in NH & CT right now under the MEQ name. All the while - denying it's occurring. And MEQ alum are implementing similar strategies in other states. And that making invisible of trans people in MA had a great deal to do with the 2007 enda debacle. You can't deny just deny this and erase it from history.

This is part of why I moved from MA - the gay leadership has actively been erasing trans people and stifling our rights ...for decades.

So - what are your doing for trans equality in NH while you're planning to expend so many resources to beat back a marriage revocation? If you can't push for a statewide nondiscrim bill like you currently enjoy there - are you pushing 2 or 3 local ones in Portsmouth, Concord, Nashua?

I often wonder how long the LGBT community will continue to poo-poo anything based on old history. With so many folks singing the praises of MassEquality for their new leadership and organizational changes, we still end up with the same-old same-old song about how much they suck for doing this or that to transpeople. There's never an actual engagement on the issue at hand - just a rehashing of old grudges and suspicions.

Because Bil, when the head of ME publishes a post about civil rights and then has to go back and re-edit transpeople in after the fact, you know that we're most certainly not a primary issue for these people.

Given that, and given the history, if they want us to consider them differently, they'll have to prove they actually deserve to be.

Kathy Padilla | February 1, 2011 11:42 AM

"I often wonder how long the LGBT community will continue to poo-poo anything based on old history."

I wonder how long it will take for people to stop minimizing excluded peoples concerns. How long ago was this ancient history? The exclusion occurring to give rights to out of states gays to marry & the prioritizing the schools bill were all of the last year or two. Ancient history indeed.

I'm glad these new folks are your friends who just like those before them have my best interests at heart - but we're still excluded from rights in the state that these same people hold up as shining examples of equality. And it's about rights & institutions - not particular leaders.

Indeed - several of those leaders wrote here in Bilerico about how wonderful MA is for queer people - forgetting again - who was left out. There's a very clear pattern & practice. I don't care about what's in their hearts - I care about what's in the law. What's in their hearts lasts as long as the next thing they may want to prioritize over trans equality. This was a major public statement to a sitting Senator - and it again failed to include trans people - or any specific trans issues. So - if you have such a history - maybe you need to be extra conscientious of the language in your public statements.

When you screw people over for 20 years - you shouldn't complain about them complaining.

So - how long? How about five years after a trans people enjoy the same rights you would in MA?

That seem reasonable?

Ok, so let me ask a question of the author. Please. what policies and procedures does ME have in place at this time to be inclusive of the concerns of trans people? As in actual written policies and procedures or publications.
I am a Mass resident, an activist and have seen GL groups exclude my orientation for many years and I am concern about the exclusion of transfolk.

I'm glad MassEquality isn't knee-jerk supporting Scott Brown. It should take more than a single vote to be in the good favor of the queers.

Thanks for reading my post and for responding. On February 7, 2011, I will have been the executive director of MassEquality for five months. I can't speak to what came before me, but I will speak to where the organization is at now and where we are going. We are 100% committed, personally and organizationally, to inclusion and equality for all LGBT people. This includes, with intention, the transgender community, which includes (but is not limited to) prioritizing, above all else until its passage, the Transgender Equal Rights Bill. That is where we are at and that is what (over) fills my days. I believe that time will show our – and my – accountability to this commitment. Until then, all I can offer is that I have the full backing of my boards in moving toward a truly inclusive organization, and that, as a genderqueer-identified person, that's why I felt comfortable taking this job.

Thanks for responding. I'm sure you can understand why transfolks are agitated about this. Frankly, there's good reason for transfolks to be wary of any org saying they represent us. With ME's history and not everyone knowing that the leadership and the agenda has changed, it's understandable why you're seeing the reaction you are here.

That said, I respect and appreciate you taking on these concerns honestly, directly, and publicly. That's more than can be said for many organizational leaders.

I can't speak for everyone else, but for myself I am prepared to see what happens now, as we move into the next election season. Yes, I think your predecessors and their self-serving behavior have left your organization with much to prove to the Mass. transgender community, and to the rest of us as well. I, for one, will be very interested to see what happens next for (or to) transpeople in Mass.

Thanks for the response and I'm in the area so I am looking forward to seeing things progress also.

Kathy Padilla | February 2, 2011 11:00 AM


Thank you for responding - and for not feeling you need to erase past history in presenting your organization as having reformed on the issue of equity for trans people in your efforts. Acknowledging the past is a necessary step to moving forward - not an indictment of current efforts. They should be judged by results and by the resources committed to the efforts.

I would ask you respond not just to questions regarding MA - but what your efforts are across New England given MA EQ has expanded it's role to the entire region for marriage rights:

Marriage Equality in New England

"In 2008, MassEquality joined forces with Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and statewide organizations to secure marriage equality in every New England state by 2012. Our campaign is called "6x12." With Connecticut's 2008 court victory and legislative victories in New Hampshire and Vermont in 2009, we are already two-thirds of the way there.

Working hand-in-hand with GLAD and our partner equality organizations in each state we are wining equality in New England!"

Has MA EQ expanded it's efforts equally in NE states that have sexual orientation non-discrim laws - but don't have these for gender ID & expression? CT & NH are places where significant staff & resources are being committed to marriage right now - are equal resources being expended?

And what trans specific needs are addressed in your candidate questionnaires? Removing exclusions on trans specific health care? Others?


It took me a bit to understand here that Kara, the head of MassEquality, had left out gender identity in her description of ENDA and then edited the post after Kathy Padilla pointed this out.
Knowing that Kara is new to MassEquality and that she has made some pretty vocal statements that here with our own Trans Rights Bill, her support for transsexual and transgender people is promising to be almost militant, I can see this most likely was just a typo.
But we all have to admit that with what transsexual and transgender people have had to endure in the not too distant past and quite recently, little "oopsies" like this would and should be enough to make everyone's anger explode.
One thing here re Bil's comment, Kara is new to the helm. As recent as last session MA's Trans Bill was a true betrayal of the rights of Transsexual and Transgender people. There were many things happening here that were foul, the least of which that there was no vote with majority support in both houses due to it being an election year. Now we don't know where it all plays out.
And Sara, it's certainly convenient to play a distinction from the Caucus when it suits you...