The road to passing federal legislation can be long and arduous, and to some extent this is simply the nature of the beast – the beast, in this case, being our national legislature. We do well to remember, however, that while we are waiting and working to overcome this or that procedural hurdle in Congress, transgender Americans are facing blatant discrimination right now.
Case in point: today the New York-based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a complaint with the Florida Human Relations Commission on behalf of Zikerria Bellamy, a young trans woman in Orlando. Zikerria applied for a job at a local McDonald’s in July, but she never got an interview. Instead, she got a vicious transphobic voice mail message from a McDonald’s manager, stating that they would never hire someone like her.
Legislation to protect transgender workers from this kind of discrimination has been proposed, but not yet passed, in both the city of Orlando and the Florida legislature. The state’s Human Relations Commission has permitted transgender workers to bring complaints under the state’s sex discrimination law in the past, and Zikerria is seeking protection under that law.
What’s unambiguously clear, however, is that Zikerria would have been protected by ENDA if it had been on the books. Right now, Congressional leaders are preparing to rush through a package of measures intended to create and preserve jobs, which they hope to pass before the end of the month. Yet whatever Congress does to address the current unemployment crisis will be incomplete so long as transgender people remain unemployed at twice the rate of the general population. Until ENDA is passed, transgender people face a kind of permanent recession. With each delay on ENDA, more LGBT people will lose or be denied jobs because of ignorance and bias. We need to mobilize for this bill like our lives, or at least our livelihoods, depend on it – because they do.