Bil Browning

ENDA: The More Things Change... [Photo]

Filed By Bil Browning | August 02, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Kocolene, old photos, Pass ENDA Now

Jerame and I went on a spree a while back of scanning all of our photos and adding them to our digital collection. This resulted in a few duplicates since there were so many of them and in iPhoto you can tag people like Facebook. It's a great way to organize them, but it requires quite a bit of work.

Last night as I was tagging photos, I ran across this one from 1999. (Clickety to embiggen) I'd been fired from my job as a convenience store manager kocolene-protest.jpgafter I spoke up at a company meeting and asked the executives to add sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy. The next day the head of human resources, a self-described evangelical, showed up at my store and terminated my employment for "talking about sex at a company meeting;" two other gay employees were also fired at the same time. The local Pride At Work chapter came to our rescue and staged a couple of protests outside of the store.

Even though Indiana doesn't have any LGBT employment protections, the company eventually settled with us after we launched the first online grassroots gay rights campaign. We called for a boycott of the company and set up a form to allow people to email the corporate headquarters. After getting covered in several LGBT news outlets, enough people came to and sent e-mails that we overwhelmed their server for three days straight. I used my portion of the settlement to buy an iMac and start figuring out how to use the new technology to improve the offline lives of LGBT people. And so a new chapter in my life was started...

In this photo, a protestor standing next to Jerame and I holds a "Vote Yes on ENDA" sign. ENDA has been introduced every year since 1994 and is going nowhere fast. It's fucked up that 12 years later, the same thing could happen to any Indiana employee and that same guy could bring that same sign to protest inequality.

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I think the problem is education and changing minds. I know many people "don't have a problem" but vote differently because they really don't understand how it will affect the LGBT community.

A lot of work still needs to be done. Individuals can do a lot but there really does need a concerted effort to coordinate people wherever they may be in the state. I mean how hard is it to find one volunteer and say hey pass they fliers out or hold signs...

For many it just takes at least one person willing to stand with you to start a movement. The problem is who will stand with that one person who feels isolated? There are a lot of small communities.

I have a feeling that the greater issue this past year is that the movement is preoccupied.

To me ENDA is the most important thing the LGBTQ community can do. I have been fired for Transition as a teacher in Oklahoma and no recourse was hard to take.. Teacher of the year for the school, 10 years service to the district and woosh it's gone. Until you have found yourself unemployed and no unemployment. It makes ideas like Marriage second to ENDA. Sure is hard to work on developing a family when your fighting to keep a roof and food on the table..

Bil (and Jerame), a very belated "Bravo!" on how you showed this bigoted HR executive and that company that you are not without empowerment, and how you persevered and multiplied on your initial success. Needless to say, Bilerico Project has now grown so that it empowers a countless many of us. It certainly amplifies my own voice tremendously. Thank You