GLAA Supports ENDA (H.R. 3685)
and Baldwin Amendment
October 21, 2007
GLAA has been defending the rights of transgenders since the 1970s. It is a simple matter of equal justice under the law, and we are proud that the District has one of the strongest and most inclusive human rights laws in the country. We therefore signed onto the Oct. 1 joint letter coordinated by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force calling for the U.S. Congress to pass a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and opposing a non-inclusive version. In doing so, we believed that while hope remained for passage of an inclusive version, and while an intensive nationwide lobbying effort was underway, it made no tactical sense to signal that we would accept anything less. We issued an action alert in support of the trans-inclusive bill.
Unfortunately, the House Democratic leadership determined last week that they still lacked the votes to pass the trans-inclusive version, and proceeded to mark up Rep. Barney Frank’s gay-only version, H.R. 3685, which was favorably reported out of the Committee on Education and Labor on Oct. 18 by a vote of 27 to 21. H.R. 3685 is expected to reach the House floor on Wednesday, Oct. 24. The House leadership also indicated that it would allow Rep. Tammy Baldwin to introduce an amendment at that time to add protections for gender identity and expression to the bill.
GLAA supports the Baldwin Amendment as well as the underlying bill. We believe the wisest course is to support the best bill that Congress can pass. We are aware of how controversial this position is, having closely followed the strategizing on ENDA among LGBT activist groups for the past three weeks. We simply cannot agree with the all-or-nothing approach being insisted upon by so many other groups, which we believe ignores the history of the civil rights movement and would actually set back the cause of transgender equality rather than advance it.
We agree with D.C. officials ranging from Councilmember Carol Schwartz to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who point out that, had the District refused 33 years ago to accept an imperfect Home Rule Charter, we would have gotten nothing. We therefore join our colleagues in the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club in urging Rep. Norton “to strive for the best possible legislation.” The passage of even an imperfect ENDA by the full House will represent an historic breakthrough that will improve the chances of passing further advances. History shows that incrementalism is a winning strategy, as proven most recently by GLAA’s success with a series of incremental bills to expand the rights and responsibilities of domestic partnerships in D.C.
We hope that the Baldwin Amendment will succeed, but if not, we cannot and will not turn our backs on 33 years of advocacy by urging defeat of a gay rights bill on account of its not being perfect. No legislation is perfect. No single bill’s passage ends our work of advocacy for full equality. We will not abandon our transgender sisters and brothers, and we object to those who claim that differences over strategy are signs of bigotry or moral failing. We believe that it is irresponsible and counterproductive not to take “yes” for an answer from a House of Representatives about to pass a long-awaited gay-rights bill. We do not take this position lightly. Below [see Related Links box at upper right] we will provide a link to the Stein Club’s statement, as well as other statements that explore the arguments in greater detail. In particular, we recommend that you read Barney Frank’s lengthy Oct. 9 statement from the House floor.
Barrett L. Brick