by Jan Adams, Claiming the Blessing Field Organizer
Great workshop this morning about on-going work to pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in Congress this year. Presenters were Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and Becky Dansky of the NGLTF with help from organizers from PFLAG and the NGLTF Transgender Civil Rights Project. (Sorry, I didn’t catch their names.)
ENDA is the current version of a decades long struggle to get protection from discrimination against LGBT people written into federal law. We haven't got that -- yet. The early rounds began in 1974! Since the 1990s, the effort has focused solely on employment. Not surprisingly, the effort was completely stalled during the period of Republican/Bush rule.
But now we once again have a chance to win -- and this year's version of the law is fully inclusive, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity (that means it covers transpeople and all variants of gender non-conformity) as well as sexual orientation. If we can get it through Congress, President Obama has said he'll sign it. In the workshop, we were told it would go to the House of Representatives in the spring. Once it passes there, if it does, it will go to the Senate in the fall.
Whether we once against get lost in the legislative shuffle or instead finally win this important piece of anti-discrimination law will depend on us.
Our own community needs education about ENDA. Why we need it isn't so hard for any of us who've ever had an employer look at us funny. But how we get it takes some work. Of the folks who attended the workshop on this law, only about 25 percent knew the name of their Congressperson. Yet this is only going to happen if people work at educating our Congresspeople about our LGBT lives. They still don't necessarily know why we need this law. It is up to us to expose them to our stories, to write, to ask for meetings, to network with others to encourage them to extend legal protections to all LGBT people.
One thing I learned in the workshop was that we have very accomplished lobbyists in Washington on our side. Becky and Mara are impressive. They need us to have their backs.
Do you know who your Congressperson is? You can easily find out at this link. Might as well write her/him a letter while you are at it...