Ending Discrimination: Put The "T" Back In ENDA? genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak

Equality Supports Diversity

Efforts to pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) are once again encountering difficulties. The legislation has struggled for a number of years, having come very close in 1996; failing to pass by just one vote.

With the legislation scheduled for discussion Tuesday, the LGBT community succeeded in pressuring the Democratic leadership to postpone consideration until later this month. The pressure emerged when the legislation underwent a number of revisions...the primary sticking point being the removal of protection for transgendered individuals.

The issue has fomented disagreement in the LGBT community from a number of perspectives. Some believe this type of legislation shouldn't even be debated until after the 2008 election based upon fears that it may be utilized by the GOP during the upcoming 2008 election. Others contend that the LGBT community should settle for nothing less than full ENDA protection for all the members of the LGBT...including the transgendered. Still others argue that the acquisition of rights is a piecemeal process...one that should pass whatever legislation is possible or feasible and then ratchet that momentum over time into the expansion of those rights.

What is abundantly clear is that the LGBT community lacks a consensus position although that observation may well be disputed by those who believe that they, in fact, represent the community. Thinking back on the civil rights era many years ago, the same dissension existed. The Black Panthers believed rights had to be fought for...inclusive of violence in certain circumstances. At the other extreme, Martin Luther King believed in peaceful, non-violent measures.

While one can argue either side of the equation, the truth of the matter is that change is facilitated by all forms of pressure...and the LGBT community has, over time, utilized some degree of each strategy in obtaining their recognition and rights. Recall the Stonewall Riots in New York City, the abrasive efforts of ACT UP, the peaceful marches on Washington, and the systematic lobbying efforts of groups like HRC and NGLTF. That the cause has involved a variety of efforts is as it should be.

I may be wrong, but the LGBT community would be well advised to forego the internal bickering which seems to suggest that little can happen until such time as a consensus strategy is established. Truth be told, each attempt to secure more rights will have an impact on those who are receptive to such methods. No one size fits all will suffice and no one size ought to be sought.

The history of war tells us as much. While the United States is defended by our military, our military is a composite of differing approaches. The Army, The Navy, The Marines, and The Air Force all provide specialized services structured under the umbrella of defending the nation. While the pursuit of civil rights cannot have the rigidity or the cohesiveness of the military, it can still benefit from the diverse approaches.

In the end, I believe that one thing can be identified as the primary impetus in defining and propelling the goals and objectives of all such causes. It is none other than the dissonance which is created when previously invisible individuals demonstrate a willingness to come out of the shadows and become visible and vocal participants in the larger society...a process which humanizes people who are often excluded for nothing more than a group of stereotypical traits which have been allowed to perpetuate in the absence of alternative experiences.

The LGBT community may share a list of similarly defined goals...but we needn't march forward in lock step. Doing so would actually support the very thing we seek to overcome...doing so would foster the belief that differences should be feared and extinguished. The promotion of diversity cannot be achieved through the vilification of differences. In the end, it is our "differentness" that must be preserved and protected. Anything less is capitulation.

Tagged as: Congress, Discrimination, ENDA, Gay, LGBT, Transgendered

Daniel DiRito | October 2, 2007 | 7:10 PM
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Comments

1 On October 3, 2007 at 9:14 AM, Ben in Oakland wrote —

As always, daniel...very thoughtful and considered.

Personally, I think the reason the groups have gone for the all or nothing approach is because they believe there is nothing to lose. Bush will veto it anyway, and there are not enough votes to override the veto. so, make a statement on principle. Unfortunately, I think it indicates a lack of principle just as easily as the opposite.

My biggest complaint-- it shuts of the debate. The power of the closet is in its enforcement of silence. Passage of ENDA would trequire more people to talk about it and think about it, whether Bush vetoes it or not. That to me is a positive thing.

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