Thursday, October 18, 2007

Quandary Over Gay Rights Bill: Is It Better to Protect Some or None?

Today's Washington Post has an article on the entire ENDA circus ( Not only does it give a good overview of how things got to their current state, but it also focuses on the issue of achieving some improvement as opposed to none. I clearly support gain some improvement as opposed to losing it all. If no version of ENDA is passed because of the gender identity issue, then all gays will have lost. If that happens, people truly need to reconsider their financial support for organizations that held out for perfection and lost protection for millions, possibly for years to come. Here are some highlights:
There's a saying in Congress about passing legislation: Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The transgender community is learning that lesson the hard way. Today, the House Education and Labor Committee is scheduled to consider a bill that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Originally, the 2007 version of what is called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, introduced in April, also included gender identity. But when Democrats realized that the transgender expansion could cost them a win, they dropped it -- much as they would shed a controversial agricultural subsidy that threatened to bring down a bigger farm bill.
Yet the decision ignited a firestorm among gay, lesbian and transgender advocacy groups, creating a rift between pragmatists who believed that a flawed bill was better than no bill and those who preferred nothing if they couldn't have it all. As it now stands, the more limited bill is expected to narrowly clear the House next week, at which point the Senate will likely move forward.
On Sept. 27, House leaders announced that they would move forward with sexual-orientation-only protections that had been sought by gay and lesbian organizations for more than a decade. Frank, a longtime crusader for the cause, endorsed the move, noting that the transgender provisions could reemerge as a separate bill once support for them grew. In general, in the legislative context, if you can pass a bill that improves things for a large number of people, then take it," Frank said. "The notion that you don't protect most people if you don't protect them all -- that's never worked."
"The speaker's and Representative Frank's legislative path for action on ENDA, while not our choice, follows the path of other civil rights and business regulatory legislation," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
If Tammy Baldwin's proposed amendment goes down to a major defeat, she and the all of the "all or nothing crowd" will likely have set back the clock for transgender individuals for many years. If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

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