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Aravosis v Lambda (and the rest of us)

Today John Aravosis launched into an attack on Lambda Legal, an organization that has been serving the LGBT community for over 20 years.  They describe themselves as “…a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.”

Aravosis takes them to task over the support they offered in the letter written in response to Barney Frank’s rebuttal from last week.

Lambda Legal does not need me to defend their research and I don’t care to enter into a debate with Aravosis and his $60,000 law degree from Georgetown.  He has the right to believe that ENDA 3685 is a better bill than ENDA 2015.

What I object to is his insistence on making this problem more divisive than it already is.    

Today’s harangue is aimed at Lambda Legal mostly because they don’t agree with his opinion on ENDA.  But Aravosis doesn’t just offer his opinion of their explanation; he accuses them of doing more harm than good in his analysis of Lambda’s handling of a lawsuit in NY State:

“I will add, however, that Lambda Legal just did a great service to the homophobes by claiming that under NY law you CAN legally fire a lesbian for having a dyke attitude – way to go, guys.”

Let’s contrast that attitude to Lambda’s wording in the letter to Barney Frank:

“Lambda Legal appreciates the confidence you expressed in our organization by stating that we could “easily defeat such an end run around the sexual orientation language.” If this weaker version of ENDA were to become law, we certainly would try and hope that we would be able to do so. But without an express prohibition on discrimination based on gender nonconformity, there is a real risk that we might not succeed. That is a risk that we, and our colleagues at other legal organizations, repeatedly have seen play out in other anti-discrimination laws, and it is a risk to which we believe members of our community should not be exposed.”

Did Lambda accuse Rep. Frank of being dishonest or disingenuous?  No, in fact, the letter they sent starts like this:

“It is not pleasant to have to disagree with a Congressman who has done so much that we admire and who has been such a stalwart leader for our community, but your recent response to our organization’s legal analysis of the failings of H.R. 3685 (the weakened version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA] introduced into Congress last week) forces us to reply. This is a difference of opinion over legal analysis, not over goals. We all share the goal of enacting a strong and effective law to protect the LGBT community against employment discrimination.”

What Aravosis offers as rebuttal to Lambda sounds more like the religious right’s rhetoric.   In another section of the post, Aravosis says this:

“The letter argues to Frank that we must have “gender identity” in the ENDA non-discrimination law.”

Please note his use of quotation marks around the term gender identity.  It is very evocative of many publications from the religious right where they put quotes around the word gay and marriage to show their contempt.  Well done!  It sounds like you are putting that law degree to good use.

In a further burst of condescension, Aravosis says of Lambda:  “But if they're bad lawyers, they sure are great PR spinmeisters.”

Mr. Aravosis is an expert at recognizing political manipulation.  His days are spent sitting at the keyboard – when he isn’t making an appearance on CNN – spinning the latest political news.  He routinely advocates for the policy positions of the Democratic Party.  That is an acceptable line of work, but it is also something that taints his viewpoint on ENDA.  

His attack dog approach cannot be explained any other way.  What is his purpose in keeping up this daily agitation?  After days of disparaging and purposefully antagonistic remarks directed at transgender people, he now has decided to malign Lambda Legal.  And why is this happening?  Because ENDA is being attacked and the Democratic Party wants our compliance.

Since 255 organizations have signed on at http://www.unitedend… announcing their opposition to ENDA 3685, and members of Congress have been made aware of the growing displeasure with the compromises that have been foisted on us, the Party needs someone with teeth to stir up the pot.

Do what it takes, John.  Push the envelope.  Ask the uncomfortable questions that are being whispered to you in secret.  Drum up the support required to make it acceptable to bash the transgender community.  They are the weak link – in ENDA and in our country – so it shouldn’t be difficult for you to succeed.  Lambda Legal has concerns??  They dare to question Barney Frank?  Smear them, too.
Who is next?  Let me give you some help.  There are a number of organizations for you to declaim:

Empire State Pride Agenda
“We also need to make the specific request: oppose any effort to weaken the bill, including by stripping or modifying any of the transgender protections.  There should be no compromise on whether some or all of our community will be included in this bill when it goes to the House or Senate floor for a vote. Removing this vital part of the bill leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to losing their job simply because of who they are.”

NGLTF says:
“On Sept. 27, with no consultation with the community, members of Congress announced that they had decided to rush a new version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that does not include gender identity to a vote in the House of Representatives. The inclusive bill is HR 2015, and the non trans-inclusive version is HR 3685.

This would not only deny protections to transgender people, but also fail to protect lesbian, gay and bisexual people who do not conform to other people’s expectations (such as “effeminate” men and “masculine” women).”

PFLAG says:
“Moving equality forward means moving equality forward for all of us – not just a select few.  Don’t let our PFLAG family be divided.  Please make the call TODAY!”

Freedom to Marry Coalition of MA
“House Democratic leaders continue to move forward with their plan to introduce a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which removes protections for transgender persons–a move that would leave every member of the LGBT community open to discrimination in the workplace.”

NCLR says:
“Definitions of who is protected by the bill leave gaping loopholes so that no one will be fully protected against discrimination. Congress should finish the work it began 44 years ago when it made employment discrimination based on sex illegal, and once and for all rid the workplace of sexual stereotypes.”

ACLU says:
“I ask you to oppose any move by Congress to chop out of ENDA people who most need its protections. I urge you to oppose any effort to remove gender identity from the bill, which would harm protections for transgender workers in addition to many gay and lesbian employees.

All Americans deserve the right to come to work knowing the most important employment decisions will be made based on how well they do their jobs and not based on who they are.”

(Extra credit – go here to see a post from ACLU blog with an updated story about why this is important now:…)

Shall I continue?  There are hundreds more.  He's got his work cut out for him.  It's going to be a busy week of swift boating for Aravosis.

Who should I trust to help me decide what is important – Aravosis (a political pundit with an agenda) or over 250 organizations that have been devoted to advancing LGBT rights; organizations that do not ask for the permission of politicians or use smear tactics taken from Karl Roves playbook to defend their position?

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