Thursday, November 8, 2007

ENDA Passes

The House passed ENDA yesterday.

The bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, is the latest version of legislation that Democrats have pursued since 1974. Representatives Edward I. Koch and Bella Abzug of New York then sought to protect gay men and lesbians with a measure they introduced on the fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the brawl between gay men and police officers at a bar in Greenwich Village that is widely viewed as the start of the American gay rights movement.

“On this proud day of the 110th Congress, we will chart a new direction for civil rights,” said Representative Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat and a gay rights advocate, in a speech before the vote. “On this proud day, the Congress will act to ensure that all Americans are granted equal rights in the work place.”

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and a longtime supporter of gay rights legislation, said he would move swiftly to introduce a similar measure in the Senate. Some Senate Republicans said that, if worded carefully, it would have a good chance of passing, perhaps early next year.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has said that she would be the lead co-sponsor of the Senate bill. Ms. Collins, in a statement, said that the House vote “provides important momentum” and that “there is growing support in the Senate for strengthening federal laws to protect American workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

President Bush threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill, but a White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said the administration would need to review recent changes before making a final decision. Few Democrats expect Mr. Bush to change his mind.

The House bill would make it illegal for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.”

The bill leaves out explicit protection for transgendered people, which has been a contentious issue within the LGBT community. Basically it came down to a question of whether to put forth a bill that would include protections for transgendered people, knowing it would have a rough time passing and guaranteeing a veto from the president, or compromise with this bill that would get broader support and make it harder for the bigots and the homophobes harder to rally around.

President Bush will come up with some lame-ass reason to veto any bill like this; something along the line of “no one is entitled to ‘special rights'” or “telling employers that it’s not okay to fire queers will make the Baby Jesus cry,” and the bigots and the homophobes will rally around anything that resembles gay-bashing, including burning SpongeBob Squarepants in effigy. So why not pass the ENDA without the transgendered provision and avoid the production number? Get the bill passed with a veto-proof majority and wait until the Democrats are in the White House and have a filibuster-proof majority in both the Senate and the House and pass an amendment that would add in the transgendered.

Because, as Portly Dyke puts it so well, there comes a time when you have to say, “Okay, that’s it, I’ve had it. This shit stops here. Right now.” This isn’t just about whether or not transgendered people are protected by the law. It’s about the mindset that the Christianists and the gay-bashers truly have the power to go against not just the will of the majority of the people in this country who think that the LGBT community deserves equality in all matters under the law, but that these ignorant tightasses have the power to intimidate the rest of the country into thinking the way they do. They do not; they are just very, very good at creating the illusion that they do, and we have been all the more foolish by buying into it. They’ve sucked us into their arguments against gay marriage, job protection, and their pathetic wailings about being the victims of the radical homosexual agenda that seeks to abolish the right to practice their hate as a religious ritual.

But it’s now to the point where we — all of us, straight, gay, or just curious — have to say that we’re not even accepting their arguments as anything other than fear and prejudice, and we’re not going to debate the issue, any more than it was worth debating the arguments against school integration fifty years ago when we were told that it would be a financial burden on the school districts because they would have to change all the toilet seats in the boys rooms because, you know, that’s how “those people” transmit VD.

I would like to see ENDA pass with the transgendered provision, and if the president vetoes it, I would like to see the Democrats campaign against every Republican — and Democrat — that upholds the veto as the weaseling chickenshits they are. This is not an issue that is even close. And if the compromise bill passes and it becomes law, I will see that as only the beginning, and we will tell the bigots and the gay-bashers that their time is over.

Or, to quote Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, “You have no power here! Now begone, before somebody drops a house on you!”