Between The Lines Editorial
Nov. 15, 2007
Last week political tacticians at the Human Rights Campaign came to agree with U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act had a chance to pass in the U.S. House, but only if the language that included transgender people was stripped out. Perhaps they were proven correct Nov. 7 when the House approved a non-inclusive version of ENDA.
The day before the vote in Congress, HRC released the results of a poll they commissioned that found over 70 percent of LGBT Americans preferred passing ENDA without transgender protections rather than not passing the bill at all. The poll release was stomach-wrenching in its timing. It read like all the polls used to discriminate against LGBT people through the years. It was a jaw-dropper for this paper and was in appallingly poor taste.
First, as a community we know that principles should never be subject to polls. As a movement we have all struggled hard to fight majority tyranny. Here in Michigan we recently felt the impact of such a tyranny in 2004 when the majority of voters in Michigan passed Proposal 2, the anti-gay marriage amendment to our state Constitution. One of our key arguments was that it was patently unfair to vote on minority rights. Why then, should we be expected to embrace the results of the HRC poll as anything other than the majority of LGBT people “voting” away the rights and the very voices of a minority community within the larger LGBT community? We shouldn’t accept that, and we don’t.
Secondly, we have serious questions about the poll itself, and we are disappointed that HRC leaders have not responded to reasonable questions from reporters in the LGBT press. We would have hoped that people as politically savvy as those at HRC would have anticipated questions, such as; who did the polling?, who did they poll?, and what is the margin of error? These are basic facts that journalists regularly report about any political poll. We have to wonder why HRC’s leaders are not forthcoming with this information.
Lastly, although we disagree strongly with HRC’s position on trans-exclusion in ENDA, we had been willing to respectfully disagree with them on their strategy. We feel the principles involved are more important than winning a tactical victory on a bill that will probably never become law under a Bush presidency. We originally understood that HRC’s position was based upon a tactical strategy. But we find it extremely troubling that HRC now seems to want us to believe that their position on trangender inclusion is not just tactical, it is part of their understanding of our community’s goals. They are wrong, and 360 LGBT organizations across this country understand this and feel the same way.
The LGBT movement seeks liberty and justice for all, including the “T.” HRC needs to look again at their polling data and understand it for what it is – a poor excuse for a misguided policy.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the only openly lesbian member of Congress, struggled valiantly to keep transgender people protected under ENDA, but ultimately failed. ENDA’s enemies in the House tried to derail the whole bill based on Baldwin’s offer of an inclusive amendment, which indicated just how determined some people are in Congress to deny LGBT people any form of equal rights. After the vote, Baldwin said she celebrated an important victory (passage of ENDA), but she would keep working to eventually pass an inclusive version of the bill.
We stand with Baldwin.