It's about time for an ENDA

by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 2015) is fast approaching its next moment in the sun, as a vote for ENDA may well take place by the time you read this column. The bill, as it currently stands, should provide protections for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and, yes, transgender people in the United States. One may, of course, argue over the language of the bill, and whether or not it goes far enough.

There's been plenty of history about the transgender protections under ENDA, and I know that it is still the stuff of controversy today. I've been following the issues surrounding this bill since 1994, back in the days when the Human Rights Campaign was still the HRCF, and transgender activists were told to sit tight while that version of ENDA went through, and transgender people would be picked up at some later point.

Likewise, I've also heard that transgender people need not worry, that our protections already exist in Federal law. Every so often, a glimmer of hope that this may well be true will crop up. Not so this week, as the the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that states, essentially, that transsexuals do not have any such protections at the federal level.

The ruling says, too, that a Supreme Court ruling barring discrimination against those who do not meet certain gender stereotypes -- that is, being a "butch" female or an overly effeminate male -- do not apply to transgender people. In short, making it clear that transgender people have absolutely no federal recourse when it comes to employment protections.

This makes a fight for an ENDA - a truly inclusive ENDA - all the more important. On the website for the Traditional Values Coalition, buried under a scrolling "news feed" promising to tell your the "truth" about GLSEN, a story about Planned Parenthood's "child molester cover up," and a story called "Homosexual Urban Legends.... The Series," was a piece titled "What is Rep. Barney Frank Hiding?"

The TVC claim is that "Democrat infighting" is delaying this bill, and claims that Frank and other are attempting to hide the "Truth" about ENDA. They state that ENDA will "give drag queens, cross-dressers, she-males, etc., the same protected status in American law as African Americans or other legitimate minority groups."

This release sets out three claims at the end of its release, each there seemingly with one intent: to raise the heart rates -- perhaps to loosen the purse strings -- of TVC's supporters. They claim that ENDA will cause a "flood" of litigation against businesses, that said businesses will lost the right to "set a moral standard," and that christian schools will be forced to violate their religious beliefs.

I have news for these folks. No organization has the "right" to foist upon others a "religious belief" that promoted outright discrimination, and businesses are not in business to "set moral standards." If they were, I'd be a little afraid of the moral standards being set by some of our country's biggest businesses.

As to the flood of litigation they claim will occur, well, yes I could see some lawsuits in the future. Then again, I could also suspect that said lawsuits might have a good reason to exist. It's quite likely they are exactly the sort of cases an ENDA would help.

Indeed, this is exactly why ENDA is needed.

There are countless stories of businesses who have fired transgender employees for discussing transition plans with Human Resources, or as they are outed, or elsewhere along their path. Many more face issues within their employment far worse than an erroneous 'ma'am" or "sir" from time to time, falling instead within the realm of verbal, even physical harassment. This is why this bill is needed, and why trasnsgender people need these protections. For those who can add are unjustly terminated. For those who cannot get a foot in the door when applying for a job, for those who face issues of discrimination in employment for being who they are.

In short, we need protections. This bill may indeed provide such -- and frankly, I tend to be for whatever the TVC is against.

Gwen Smith can probably be called a "homosexual urban legend," somewhere in the realm of "Nessie" or bigfoot. You'll find her on the web at
www.gwensmith.com
Editor's note: Gwen Smith's column was submitted prior to the national news of a possible compromise on the ENDA legislation which we exclude gender identity. This compromised version of the bill was put forth by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

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