FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | October 11, 2007
ACTION ALERT: ENDA Update - What You Can Do Today
Statement from Kate Kendell Esq., Executive Director
The recent revisions to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) have left us with a bill that no competent attorney representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community would ever support. Over 300 LGBT and other civil rights and community organizations are on record as opposing the new version of ENDA for a number of very compelling reasons. In just the short past two weeks we have seen an unprecedented mobilization in our community. We are united in our support for ONLY a fully-inclusive ENDA. In the past ten days our community has flooded congress with over 15,000 calls and letters. DO NOT STOP NOW. This show of strength is inspiring and a harbinger of what we can do in the future if we harness and maintain this collective vision of justice for all.
As a legal organization, our opposition to the stripped bill is grounded in the reality of the cases we have seen and the stories of clients we have heard over the years.
For example, although statutes prevent employers from discriminating based on national origin, courts have nevertheless interpreted those statutes to permit employers to discriminate against workers who speak with an accent associated with a particular country or region. Similarly, courts have interpreted race discrimination statutes narrowly to permit employers to discriminate against workers who wear hairstyles (such as braided hair) associated with a particular race. The basis for these decisions is that not all persons from other countries speak with an accent and that not all persons of a particular race wear a particular hairstyle. While we strongly disagree with the reasoning in these decisions, it, unfortunately, does not take a stretch of imagination to envision a court holding that a statute prohibiting only sexual orientation discrimination does not protect a butch lesbian or a feminine gay man because not all lesbians and gay men are gender non-conforming.
It is critical that we all stay engaged with ENDA by calling our representatives—even if you have called them already. Our voices need to be heard now more than ever. Click here for details on how to stay in contact with your representative.
If you live in one of the following districts your representative has been identified as a critical vote: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Your representatives need to hear from you now. Contact them today by calling (202) 224-3121. If you do not know who your representative is, you can call this number, give them your zip code, and they will tell you your representative's name before transferring you.
If you have already called, please call again. If you have not yet made a call, make this the first time. Tell your representative to only vote for an inclusive bill.
NCLR, Lambda Legal, the ACLU LGBT Project, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and the Transgender Law Center are all unified in our opposition to a bill that will leave many lesbian, gay, and bisexual—as well as transgender employees—with no redress if fired from their jobs or unfairly denied employment. Collectively, our organizations have litigated more cases on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the United States than anyone else, including handling scores of employment discrimination cases over the past three decades.
The revised ENDA marks a major step backwards in the development of laws that protect LGBT employees from discrimination. By dropping “gender identity” from the bill, this enormously important law completely betrays the transgender community. Our transgender brothers and sisters have stood with this movement from our earliest beginnings. Transgender individuals lose jobs, are rejected from consideration for employment, and are passed over for promotion at greater rates than lesbian, gay, or bisexual employees.
But the removal of “gender identity” is not devastating to just transgender people. It will affect all of us who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual. How? In ways we have seen time and again: under the revised ENDA employers can claim—they have before and we know they will again—that a firing was based not on sexual orientation, but rather on an employee's failure to act feminine or masculine enough. This kind of sex stereotyping is at the root of much of the discrimination against lesbians and gay men.
We have been working with our colleague organizations for years to pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that will protect the victims of discrimination we see every day. For years, we have also made clear to key leaders in Congress that including gender identity in ENDA is the only way to protect all of us. The loopholes in the new bill are not only based on the removal of gender identity, the section of ENDA which provided a religious exemption to some employers has been broadened to encompass hospitals and universities run by “faith-based” groups. Under the new version, employers do not have to provide equal benefits to LGBT workers.
There is no good reason to support this inferior, flawed, and unacceptable version of ENDA. Over a dozen states have passed laws that include gender identity. We cannot and should not accept a federal law which is riddled with loopholes when we can and have been successful in passing laws that truly do protect us all from discrimination on the job. NCLR and our colleagues are committed to fighting for everyone in our community. We are committed to fighting for not only the best ENDA we can get, but the ENDA we all deserve.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.