ENDA Update from Mara

There hasn’t been much in the way of news to report. We are beginning the sixth week of this ENDA situation or crisis or opportunity. A huge amount of education has been done. Quite actually tens of thousands of people have been engaged. And we are basically where we were at the beginning-our best allies in Congress with strong support from HRC still seem determined to jam a civil rights bill through the House of Representatives that virtually every LGBT organization, including HRC, says they do not want.

Because of the Congressional calendar for this fall, we are one way or another coming to resolution. At least for now.

My best estimation is that sometime today (possibly even before you read this) or tomorrow a decision will be made by House leadership as to whether to run H.R. 3685 and whether to first allow the Baldwin Amendment to be debated and/or voted on.

Until then, we are encouraging all of our members to visit their local Congressperson today or tomorrow to express one last time the need to pass a unified ENDA. We must convey the need to stop the divisive HR 3685 and move a unified ENDA or nothing. Mend it or end it. Fix it or nix it.

At this point in the train wreck though, the truth is that no real victory is possible for anyone-not this round. If they pass the divided and divisive bill, the vast majority of us in LGBT-land are disappointed. We are not and will not be divided because very few LGBT organizations are not on the United ENDA side in this. Some fringe-we are almost the whole cloth of the community. More importantly, our collective federal, state, and local work is set back years. No ENDA, despite how hard the House leadership tries to push the divisive ENDA at us, is going to become law this year. There is no incremental gain possible. First, the bill will not be signed into law thus no gain, and second, the incremental gain would be most like the incremental gain promised when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was similarly shoved down the throats of a, to say the least, reluctant LGBT community. Mere weeks and months after that fiasco, it was clear to almost everyone what a harmful ill-conceived increment that was. About 15 years of work still hasn’t undone that damage.

We know that the unified and inclusive bill (H.R. 2015) is off the table for this year, so passing that is very much not an option at this point. The Baldwin Amendment is apparently off the table. But even if the Amendment were still open for discussion, some LGBT supporters in Congress and our community have done such a thorough job of undermining the work that we all have been doing that it has become barely a long shot to pass it. [Still, as of now, it is unclear if the Baldwin Amendment would be allowed by House leadership. One thought is that Ms. Baldwin may be permitted to introduce her Amendment and speak on its behalf, then withdraw it prior to a vote. On the one hand, having Tammy Baldwin and other supporters speak about the need for gender identity protections would be helpful in concept; on the other hand, it would unlikely be sufficiently helpful to undo the damage caused by passing the divisive bill minutes later.]

If the bill is pulled for now so that we can work together on a unified bill, that too is hardly a victory. Relationships have been strained tremendously, resources and political capital have been expended needlessly and we all go back to square one minus several. However, this is still the best option. Our goal has to be moving the ball forward to pass a bill that will protect all of us and until the divisive bill has been pulled from consideration, we cannot begin again working together to pass such a unified bill

Any victory by anyone at this point would be utterly pyrrhic.

The only victory to come from this crisis has been the advancement (albeit incremental) of the LGBT community message of solidarity and willingness to step up for social justice. Hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals have spoken strongly and clearly about the need for us to stick together to have the best chance of winning protections for all of us. That is a huge win. And I will be forever grateful for that.

Mara Keisling
Executive Director
National Center for Transgender Equality

2 Responses to ENDA Update from Mara

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