From today’s SF Chronicle:
“Leading gay rights organizations, with the pointed exception of the Human Rights Campaign, withdrew their support Monday from a landmark gay civil rights bill after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., pulled transgender people from the legislation that would protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination.
The intense backlash by the gay community surprised House Democratic leaders, forcing them to postpone what had been intended as a big House vote this week to include gays and lesbians in the nation’s job discrimination laws for the first time in American history.
The debate playing out between gay rights activists and two of their biggest supporters in Congress raises a classic political question: Are activists better off compromising and accepting progress or continuing to fight for everything they want?
Gay rights groups have been waiting for a decade for the bill to pass, and many say a few more months to try to build support for including gender identity would be worth the wait. They say transgender people will have little chance of winning protection from discrimination if they aren’t included in this bill.
Pelosi and Frank, however, fear the inclusion of gender identity will kill the overall bill – again denying gays and lesbians protection against job discrimination.
I can understand the fear that if lesbians and gays don’t take what they can get now, perhaps they won’t be able to get anything at all. How many years more will it take?
Nonetheless, opposing a Federal anti-discrimination bill that excludes transgendered people is the right thing to do. The reason that it’s harder to pass a bill including transfolks — which is that open bigotry against trans people remains entirely acceptable for bosses, corporations, governments, and congresscritters — is the same reason legal protection for transgendered people is essential.
I’m thrilled to my bones that the queer rights groups have refused to sign on to the Democratic Party’s compromise. It’s solidarity in action. And it’s fucking great.
Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings suggests that us blog readers can show a little solidarity, as well:
If you think that people should not be fired because they seek gender reassignment surgery, or have some other sort of gender misalignment — if the very idea of choosing one of the toughest parts of a person’s already tough life to take away his or her livelihood for no good reason makes you as mad as it makes me — then now would be a good time to write your Representative and ask him or her to support the extension of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to transgendered people.
UPDATE: I must quote “Edward,” from Obsidian Wing’s comments:
As a gay man, I don’t mind saying, I have no interest at all in becoming a “first-class citizen” if it comes at the expense of someone else’s status. I’ll happily take my chances with the current law before I’ll passively support the hideous assertion that gays and lesbians are kind of ok now, but transgendered Americans are still very much not ok. That folks can’t see why that’s so offensive to many gay folks suggests to my mind they don’t see why the current lack of protection is offensive to us either. It’s not about us. It’s about what’s right.
What this boils down to, quite frankly (no pun intended), is that I trust the motives of the transgendered community in this battle much, much, much more than I trust the motives of those among general public who are coming around and now ready to condescend to suggest I might be worthy of some of the same civil liberties they take for granted. In other words, if the sh*t hits the fan again, I’d rather stay aligned with the folks who’ve shown me constant, genuine support, regardless of how small a minority they may be, than be worried my new allies are still harboring bigotry and might turn against me again.