Friday, October 19, 2007

ENDA opposition sends us down an ideologically pure road to political failure.

This editorial ( in today's Washington Blade is very much on point and illustrates the dangers of putting ideological purity over common sense. If more members of the LGBT community do not learn from history, many of us may find ourselves left with no employment protections for many more years. Not exactly what I would consider a "victory." Here are some highlights:

IN 1972, THE DEMOCRATIC Party made a fateful decision from which it has never recovered: it nominated George McGovern for president. The gay rights movement is on track to emulate this disastrous choice. Later this month, Congress is expected to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would make it illegal to fire someone based upon his or her sexual orientation, as it is currently legal to do in 31 states. ENDA has existed in some form or another for more than 30 years, but only now does it have the votes to pass Congress.
The bill’s chief sponsor is Rep. Barney Frank, the greatest champion of gay rights in Washington (Full disclosure: I was an intern in Frank’s district office in high school, many moons ago). Frank, oddly enough, is now being assailed by a coalition of nearly 300 gay rights organizations across the country calling itself “United ENDA,” whose supporters have called him names like “sell out” and “traitor” because he opposes adding a provision protecting gender identity to the bill.
MANY OF THESE activists would do well to brush up on the history of the 1972 Democratic presidential primary. For liberals, it felt redeeming to nominate an ideologically pure leftist like McGovern, whose mantra in the ’72 campaign was “Come Home, America.” But America overwhelmingly rejected this message and re-elected Richard Nixon in a landslide, giving him the second largest popular vote margin of victory in the history of the United States (McGovern won a single state, Massachusetts, losing his own, South Dakota).
Those who supported McGovern, like those who support inclusion of the transgender provision, were no doubt motivated by their desire to have clean consciences; McGovern believed in everything they did. But how clean could their consciences have been for enabling the re-election of Nixon, and how clean will the consciences of Barney Frank’s critics be if their insistence on the transgender provision leads to ENDA’s failure? People’s jobs are at stake here, not just the lofty abstractions of “solidarity” and “justice” about which the anti-ENDA forces so melodramatically whine. The objective position of Frank’s critics is that gay people should continue to be fired just because a miniscule minority—transgender people —is not included in this bill.
Let us all praise the faux-heroics of the gay rights movement’s McGovernites; fawning recognition, after all, is what they seek. Don’t get me wrong: These folks are perfectly entitled to go down in a blaze of glory, ideologically pure on the road to abject political failure. But they should not expect to drag the majority of gay people down with them.

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