LGBT groups unite to defend trans workplace protection

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

Nearly 300 organisations representing the full scope and breadth of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in America have launched a united lobbying and advocacy campaign to win passage of a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Called United ENDA, the campaign builds off the past week’s unprecedented efforts by legal groups, political organisations, grassroots activists and many others to maintain protections on the basis of gender identity in ENDA as the measure was originally introduced.

Currently before Congress, ENDA was designed to extend federal employment discrimination protections that are currently provided on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability to also cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

However, the trans protections have been dropped as there is not enough Congressional support for them.

The push to get ENDA approved has been led by Congressman Barney Frank, one of only two out gay members of Congress.

He supports splitting the bill to exclude gender identity protections, despite widespread criticism from LGBT activists. He is holding a press conference later today.

“The subject will be the obligation of the Democratic Party to govern responsibly when confronted by a demand to react emotionally by a deeply committed, single-issue faction insisting on putting ideological purity over achievable advancement of our values,” he said in a press release.

“The specific example discussed will be the current demand that the Democratic leadership kill the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which has been the prime legislative goal for gay and lesbian people for over 30 years, because we do not have the votes to include people who are transgender.”

United ENDA includes leading legal organisations such as Lambda Legal and faith groups such as the Religious Coalition for Equality.

They have signed a joint letter to Congress objecting to a diminished bill that abandons transgender people.

They claim that as a result of letter and direct lobbying by staff from LGBT organisations and constituents, a scheduled House committee hearing on a version of ENDA that strips protections for transgender people was postponed last week.

The largest LGBT advocacy group in America, Human Rights Campaign, has been lambasted by other groups for supporting Congressman Frank’s position.

HRC’s National Dinner in Washington, D.C last week was picketed by trade unionists, trans groups and others over its position.

“We’re facing a stark reality,” said HRC President Joe Solomonese.

“The House leadership and bill sponsors are moving forward with a non-inclusive ENDA – even without the full support of our community.

“They view this as the best opportunity this year to get a successful vote on legislation extending protections to the largest number of people.

“I want you to know we made every possible effort to avoid having a non-inclusive bill introduced and we did succeed in helping convince Congressional leaders to delay action on the new bill until later this month.

“We now have a window of opportunity to try and line up the votes we need to pass a fully-inclusive ENDA.”