Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Duplicity By Any Other Name Would Smell As Foul

“My oh my, you sure know how to arrange things.
You set it up so well, so carefully.
Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things?
You’re still the same old girl you used to be.” — Lyin’ Eyes, the Eagles

Duplicity is duplicity, no matter how you slice (or parse) it. Or as we like to say in these parts (the parts being South Texas): “you can’t polish a turd.”

We’ve had plenty of duplicity to kick off the 21st Century – well beyond our share! It didn’t originate post-millennium, but it’s certainly found welcome environs here these days. Lord knows we’ve had more than our fill from the Bush Administration. The Democrats pledged to be the party of change with their ushering in a year ago – and now status quo seems to be the battle cry amongst Congressional majority on the Hill.

Even in GLBT politics we’ve dealt with it blatantly. Numerous folks have pointed out any number of Mara Keisling’s promises vs. the actions that later belie them. Even Matt Foreman repented post SONDA (Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act) in New York state, and promised of trans non-discrimination being the next priority #1 (nope, gay marriage) and then only supporting inclusive legislative language thereafter until Henry Waxman’s FEPA (Fed. Employment Protection Act) came along in 2004.

However, all of the above wrapped together would find serious competition in the duplicity game with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Those of us in the Transgender Community may well remember the HRC board of directors’ vote in Aug. 2004 to support only inclusive language in the Employment Non Discrimination. It was ballyhooed widely as a watershed moment in GLBT history.

When word started leaking early this year about yet another push by HRC to equivocate on this board mandated “unequivocal” support, those of us who dared utter it were called “crazy” and written off as bitter lunatics. Later in mid September, HRC’s Exec. Dir, Joe Solmonese was a keynote speaker at the largest trans event in America and possibly the world. At the conference, he was video transcripted as saying he and his organization not only would settle for nothing less than an inclusive ENDA, they would also “oppose a non-inclusive” ENDA. It was quite the coup, triumphantly served on a silver platter to an organization long beleaguered by the transgender community.

Yet in late September, less than two weeks after the HRC triumph at SCC, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) pulled a bait-and-switch with existing legislation on ENDA (HR 2015), and did a quick-change – replacing the previously inclusive ENDA language with sexual orientation only language (HR 3685).

Instantaneously virtually every GLBT group seized upon the travesty, circulated a letter to Congress signed by virtually every organization and formed an ad-hoc coalition. Every organization … save for HRC.

To control the damage, HRC did explain their situation via the media. Later they began visiting key states and locales to shore up support and to quell the rancor of those supporting transgender-inclusive legislation – as well as whatever transgender stragglers they could still rope in to hear them out.

In Philadelphia, they visited with the leadership of the statewide GLBT group SPARC (Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition) and others to elaborate on the HRC approach to ENDA. SPARC was a bit harder of a sale for HRC than they initially figured, and expressed great concern with HRC’s lack of signing on to the coalition and how that translated into perceived non-support of transgender inclusion.

Even though it’s long, I post the letter in its entirety to the claims of being selective and attempting to skew the intent of the letter by taking things out of context. Exhibit #1 from HRC below:

From: Joe Solmonese
Date: Oct 4, 2007 3:18 PM
Subject: My response to your letter

Dear Philadelphia Allies:

The following letter has two purposes: first, to encourage you to discuss ENDA with me, and second, to put to rest the inaccuracies and misperceptions contained in your letter dated Wednesday, October 3.

When I read your letter, it became clear to me that you are not familiar with the events that took place following leadership's decision to pursue its two-bill strategy, nor confident in HRC's good will in responding to them. We need to address that, and the best way to do so is not through heated rhetoric but person-to-person conversation. As such, I propose that we have a conference call on Monday, October 8th to discuss what has happened, what HRC is doing now, and the path that we see going forward.

I hope, however, that in the meantime you will read this letter in the interest of clearing the air about matters that are obviously of great importance to all of us. I will provide greater details below, but the bottom line is this: turning our backs on our relationships with Congress is not an acceptable strategy for HRC. It would completely incapacitate us in the fight for an inclusive bill. Everything that has transpired in the past week, and everything that we will do going forward, reflects this basic understanding: if we remain outside of the legislative process, we have no hope of influencing it.

In your letter, you state that the Human Rights Campaign did not oppose leadership's decision and reaffirm our support for the entire community. That is simply not true. HRC stated unequivocally that (a) we only support transgender-inclusive employment bills; and (b) that we did not support the removal of gender identity from ENDA.

I would also like to clear the air regarding HRC's work with LCCR to respond to the two-bill strategy. When the announcement about the bill being dropped came to us, HRC immediately went to congressional offices in order to persuade leaders to change course. While many other groups were issuing formal statements on what they apparently believed was a foregone conclusion, we were knocking on every door we could, stating our commitment to an inclusive bill and doing what we could to change the course on which leadership had embarked. At a late afternoon meeting on Friday, September 28th, LCCR asked HRC to join with them in requesting the markup be canceled and on Saturday, September 29, it became clear that we would be unable to move the Speaker or Representative Frank off of their two-bill strategy.

Therefore on Saturday, HRC drafted a letter that was circulated to the coalition and sent to the Hill on Monday October 1st. HRC was key to securing the delay in the markup. Now the ENDA coalition – including HRC—is lobbying the target members, both on the Hill and with in-district grassroots work, to support a fully-inclusive bill.

It seems that the most controversial issue here is our board's position on H.R. 3685, the stripped-down bill that Rep. Frank introduced last week. We will neither support the bill nor ask members to vote against it. Let me be clear: this does not amount to approving of a non-inclusive bill; it does not set up a situation where a non-inclusive bill will pass without gender identity, and it most certainly does not give Congress a "pass." I will explain in detail below.

First, we do not "support" the non-inclusive bill. HRC is not lobbying in favor of H.R. 3685. We have not mobilized our members in support of it, nor expended resources to secure a vote on it. HRC cannot throw our resources behind it, because it leaves transgender people behind. Plain and simple.

A likely outcome would be a negative vote about gender identity. We have been told in no uncertain terms that, a motion to recommit stripping gender identity would easily pass, meaning that members of Congress would be on record opposing transgender equality. Worse yet, leadership informed us that this motion to recommit could be even more vile and degrading to transgender people, excluding jobs involving contact with children. Sadly, such a motion was also likely to pass. Think of it—Congress formally declaring, even in the context of a civil rights bill, that members of our community are unfit to work around children. Despicable, but a realistic problem. Rightly or wrongly, our congressional allies—and make no mistake, they are allies— decided to deny anti-GLBT leaders the chance to do this damage.

Anger at this course of events is understandable. We are angry too, but there is no course of logic that can lead one to the conclusion that HRC is the problem. This is not the position that we wanted to be in. The fact is, this is where we are in October 2007—many votes shy of our goal.

As a result, the 110th Congress will be about education. We will work to secure approximately 40 additional votes needed to pass the bill we want: one that covers the whole community. We participate in the hearings on transgender equality that Rep. Frank has promised to hold. Rather than being outsiders to this process, we will have a voice in favor of equality, and make sure that GLBT-rights advocates are at the table when those hearings are planned. And of course we will redouble our efforts with employers, whom we've persuaded not only to adopt inclusive policies, but also to formally support an inclusive ENDA. Without them, getting as far as we have thus far would not have been possible.

As I have stated previously, we have ramped up our lobby presence on the Hill, helped coordinate broad coalition efforts, and deployed our field team to more than 40 key congressional districts to mobilize unprecedented support for an inclusive ENDA. We secured the active support of corporate America, with more than 50 major companies joining our Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness. Our Religion and Faith Program was instrumental as well, giving voice to thousands of faith leaders across the country. We secured supportive editorials from a record number of newspapers, and with your help we generated hundreds of thousands of constituent contacts to members of Congress, through emails, phone calls, postcards, and thousands of hand-written letters. We acknowledge that there is further to go and we have not let up in that fight.

Our community can work with the people who want to help us, or we can walk out on them. We can fight to move the ball from where it is, or simply go home. HRC chose the former course. In a community facing such fierce opposition from the outside, it is disheartening to see blame and anger hurled at the people on our own side. I know in my heart that HRC's course of action not only supports the goal of transgender equality, but is the best and most expedient way to promote it.

The fact is, our position and our actions have remained consistent throughout this process. We resolved only to support passage of an inclusive bill. We remain resolved to pass only an inclusive bill. And we remain resolved to stay in the legislative process, making it both possible and necessary for Congress to do the right thing. By staying at the table, we will prevent precisely what concerns you—that they take the easier course and leave transgender people behind.

I think that further dialogue would be useful, and I invite you once again to join me on a conference call.

Joe Solmonese

This is doubtless the same message they’re putting forth at their HRC Town Hall blitzkrieg across the nation, seeking to soothe our allies, and rope in any transgendered Barnum Babies they can locate. It’s all a wonderfully deft bit of marketing. It’s just too damn bad the sales pitch isn’t consistent with the service.

Next is the latest letter to regarding Barney Frank’s ENDA bill (HR.3685) asking for support from Congress. Take special note of the wording, and then read the signatories onto the letter at the bottom. Before anyone defends it, HRC was fully aware of the letter’s text before it went out. This is not yet another coincidental case of benign ignorance. Below, Exhibit #2:

A footnote of the two contacts offered forth by LCCR at the end of the letter: Nancy Zirkin was formerly of American Assn. of University Women (AAUW), and was a reliably staunch ally of the old-line HRC approach to non-inclusion of transgenders. Rob Randhava was formerly an out staffer in Rep. Barney Frank’s office, one whom both Monica Roberts and I myself visited with back during NTAC’s Lobby Days in 2001. Six years ago, his stance was quite coincidentally the spitting image of the very same legislative strategy being pursued by Frank, HRC, et. al. in 2007.

November 6, 2007

Dear Representative:

We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our support for H.R. 3685, the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007" (ENDA). ENDA would prevent most employers from firing, refusing to hire, or denying a promotion to any worker on the basis of sexual orientation. In doing so, this legislation represents a major step forward in the advancement of civil rights protections for all Americans, and would bring federal law closer in line with highly-successful policies that already exist in a number of states and corporate environments.

Arriving at a position in support of H.R. 3685 has been extraordinarily difficult for our organizations. As you may know, earlier this year, Congress introduced - with our enthusiastic support - H.R. 2015, a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of not only sexual orientation, but also gender identity. Out of concern that Congress as a whole may not yet have the political will to pass the fully-inclusive version of ENDA, the House leadership reluctantly decided to pursue a narrower bill, one that would advance protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees, but would not include employees whose gender identity leaves them especially vulnerable to employment discrimination.

We continue to believe that H.R. 2015 is a far better approach. While it is beyond dispute that H.R. 3685 would improve protections for employees who might otherwise face unjust discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it is also beyond dispute that transgender employees are particularly in need of those protections. They face far more pervasive and severe bias in the workplace and society as a whole. While transgender employees may in some cases be protected under Title VII, they otherwise have little relief under existing state laws, municipal ordinances, or private employment policies.

As civil rights organizations, however, we are no strangers to painful compromise in the quest for equal protection of the law for all Americans. From the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through the almost-passed District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007, legislative progress in the area of civil and human rights has almost always been incremental in nature. With each significant step toward progress, the civil rights community has also faced difficult and sometimes even agonizing tradeoffs. We have always recognized, however, that each legislative breakthrough has paved the way for additional progress in the future. With respect to ENDA, we take the same view.

While we are greatly disappointed that the current version of ENDA is not fully-inclusive, our sense of frustration in this case is directed at those who would clearly prefer to see no one from the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community protected at all. We know the decision to pursue a narrower strategy was a very difficult one, and we appreciate the steadfast efforts of our Congressional allies over the years to advance the rights of all Americans - even when they are forced at times to make progress that is measured by inches rather than yards.

As such, we urge you to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and to oppose any floor amendments or motions that would undermine its protections. If you have any questions, or need any further information please feel free to contact LCCR Vice President and Director of Public Policy Nancy Zirkin at (202) 263-2880 or Rob Randhava, LCCR Counsel, at 202-466-6058. Thank you for your consideration of our views.


American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees
Human Rights Campaign
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Education Association
National Employment Lawyers Association
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Interesting that the same HRC that supports the sentiment of being no “stranger” to painful compromise is the same one that reaffirmed their resolve “to pass only an inclusive bill” a scant month earlier. Not only are they now supporting the non-inclusive bill for the record, they will also ask for no amendments or motions as well. How consistent is that? “Do not support the non-inclusive bill” to “urge you to support” and “oppose any … amendments or motions.”

Folks, when you say one thing with such passionate conviction, then turn around and defy that with your own actions to the contrary, it’s duplicity. Intently misleading. Deception. Lies.

This exercise shows how stupid we in the transgender community are perceived to be. They say there’s no fool like an old fool, and we’ve been fooled quite a bit over the decades. So we’re nothing but a bunch of tranny dummies, eh?

Well, even dumb animals can pick up on patterns.

And these are pretty consistent, and pretty damn blatant patterns.

“Your smile is a thin disguise.
Thought by now you’d realize

There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.” — Lyin’ Eyes, the Eagles

1 comment:

Karen said...

I... think there might be a small misunderstanding in there. I don't necessarily want to post details, especially in regards to the ones I only know second- or third-hand, but I'd say GENDA is an equal priority along with two other issues in NY.