ENDA: here we go again
I hope we can keep the extreme disappointment about ENDA civil this time around.
The level of discourse was so ugly, hurtful and personal on both sides — and I’m talking about the blogs in particular — it stirred up biases long whispered into vocalized disgusting disdain for transfolk and charges of selfishness for those looking to pass the Barney Frank version of ENDA that didn’t cover transgender workers as a strategic move. The internal political battles on the Hill over it, along with questionable communications strategy by HRC and other LGBT advocacy groups only made matters worse.
Yesterday’s AP story about the senior senator from Massachusetts’s public statements in support of the trans protection-stripped ENDA couldn’t sit well. More below the fold.
Kennedy said Senate approval of the bill could pave the way for extending protections to transgender workers next year, when he hopes Democrats will increase their numbers in Congress and a Democratic president supporting gay rights will be in the White House.
“The fact is that the House of Representatives has taken action,” Kennedy said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. “The best opportunity for progress is … to follow along on the action of the House of Representatives, and then look down the road to a new day after we have a good Democratic Congress and a Democratic president.”
Kennedy expects an “uphill fight” in the narrowly divided Senate, where 60 votes rather than a simple majority would be needed to overcome expected GOP stalling tactics.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality said: “We’ve expressed to Senator Kennedy’s office our disappointment and opposition to his idea to move forward,” Keisling said. “We’re always working and talking with his office and we’ll see what happens.”
I personally support a trans-inclusive ENDA for the obvious reason that there is strength in numbers; to leave transfolk behind at this stage, given the reluctance of our federal elected officials — and I mean Democrats — to find a spine on so many issues, it will mean a long wait for full protections. What we cannot ignore is the real sense by our trans brothers and sisters that they are smelling fresh pungent diesel fumes as the senior senator from Massachusetts re-started the ENDA bus, put it in gear and publicly gunned it over them again. We have to acknowlege that.
The problem is that the educational foundation simply wasn’t laid on the Hill to build support with more conservative Dems for a T-inclusive bill last time, but it can and should continue now.
However, the issue of electing more Dems is important but in some ways a red herring. We still elect too many Blue Dog Dems who don’t have any interest in touching this issue. Even with a solid Dem majority, you’re not going to see the social conservatives like Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) on board with any version of ENDA.
What I want this time around is a rational discussion, less name-calling and flame-baiting. That requires a challenge of all of us in the community – particularly people who justify their support of a trans-stripped ENDA by deciding who is and isn’t part of our community. That’s not helpful, nor is demonizing those on the “incrementalist” side as all transbashers. There has to be a middle ground for discussion and persuasion.