Friday, October 26, 2007

Representative Anthony Weimer Stands Up For ENDA in the House

Representative Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York's 9th District, representing Kew Gardens, Rockaway and Brooklyn, stood up in the House yesterday and gave the first speech that I know of on the importance of including gender identity in ENDA. The video can be seen over at Bilerico. I've transcribed the relevant portions here. I think it is a milestone for ENDA -- the real ENDA -- not the pragmatic half-measure called HR 3685 -- and I think Representative Weiner did a brilliant job of making the case in the few minutes he had to speak. Eloquent and to the point, humanizing and a call to principles, he noted that if the House is going to make this symbolic gesture, let it take a stand worthy of the effort. Most importantly, he makes the point that most Americans believe that a person's work should not be judged on the basis of characteristics outside of job performance, whether sexual orientation or gender identity.

I hope that other Representatives will take the opportunity to address the House and to explain to their colleagues why gender identity belongs in ENDA. Remember that the transgender community and its allies have been explicitly singled out for criticism on the ground that there was not a sufficient effort to lobby for the bill, and that it was necessary to educate the members of Congress. Clearly, at this point, after a large outpouring of lobbying for the Baldwin Amendment (to include gender identity in ENDA), the lobbying has been done, and it is now time for Congress to get its own House in order.

Here is my transcript of the portion of Rep. Weiner's statement that addresses gender identity:

There is an active discussion going on in this chamber, and elsewhere, about whether or not to include gender identity in the same category that we've included sexual orientation. I say unequivocally that the answer is yes. There are people that still every day who experience discrimination because of their gender identity. Susan Stanton spent fourteen years as the Largo Florida city manager -- fourteen years -- obviously doing a good job, rehired, reappointed. Susan was once Steve Stanton. When he started hormone therapy and planned to become a woman, he was fired. Diane Schroder, 25 distinguished years in the Army as David -- 450 parachute jumps, received the Defense Superior Service medal , hand-picked to lead a classified Homeland Security -- retired and was offered a job with a private Homeland Security consulting firm. The offer was rescinded when Schroeder explained he is transgender and wanted to begin the job as a woman.

But the question has come up, if we can't include gender identity in this bill, should we still do anything at all? Should we take half a loaf? My colleagues, I think the answer is no. I think that we cannot toss this element of an important civil rights coalition to the side. We have to make sure that what we are doing in the context of us doing what is largely symbolic -- there is no sense that the Senate is going to act on this, and certainly no sense that the President of the United States and this Administration is going to -- maybe what what we should say is we're in this together. If we're going to make a symbolic stand, the symbolic stand shouldn't be that let's pass a one-House bill with only part of the protections we need. Let's let the symbolic message be that we're sticking together. That when we say GLB --T-- we mean it.

And we should also do something else. We should make it very clear to those watching this discussion that we're not going to negotiate against ourselves. We're not going to say, well, if we toss this element or that element aside, we're going to get what we need. There are some things that are immutable, some civil rights that are immutable, and this is one of them. We're going to stick together to pass an inclusive ENDA or we're going to come back again and do it right.