Saturday, June 7, 2008

The LGBT Equality Caucus and the Silent T

This week, Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced the formation of the House of Representatives’ LGBT Equality Caucus. The only two openly gay members of Congress, co-chairs Baldwin and Frank have before acted as advocates for the LGBT community. The formation of the bi-partisan caucus, comprised of 52 members of the House of Representatives, marks a very hopeful step towards ensuring equal rights for all U.S. citizens, regardless of orientation or gender identity. This show of support comes at a crucial time, and the newly formed caucus already has a full agenda:
“Our work this session on legislation combating hate crimes and employment non-discrimination highlighted the need and the desire people had for more information,” Baldwin said, referring to the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The House passed ENDA, but the Senate has yet to take it up this session. The hate crimes measure was attached to the Defense authorization bill, but later yanked.
Clearly, much work needs to be done to ensure that these two important pieces of legislation are passed, and it is reassuring to see so many members of Congress pledge to support equal rights. However, any joy over the formation of the LGBT Equality Caucus must be undercut by the realization of just what a difficult battle even basic protections against violence and discrimination face. For example, although ENDA narrowly passed the House vote, it only protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation - all protections for transgenders were stripped from the bill out of fear that it would not pass if gender identity were included.

Perhaps what needs to be done is to humanize the issue, which should not be treated as a question of politics, but one of basic compassion. This piece from Current TV does just that:

(Many thanks to reader Ada for pointing us to this video!)


Queers United said...

this is progress but yea t issues must be adddressed

Habladora said...

Yeah, the exclusion of transgender protection from ENDA is shameful, and really knocks the legs out from under the bill. As Kalil notes in the Current TV clip, without language protecting against discrimination on the grounds of gender-identity, anyone could be fired for acting too masculine or too feminine. It is sad that we have to sell this issue as something that could impact anyone in order to get the bill passed, though, you would think people would have enough compassion to realize that they should work to get everyone the protections that they seek for themselves.