Wednesday, November 7, 2007

HRC Backs Trans-Exclusive ENDA

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate ENDA on the House floor as I write, the Human Rights Campaign remains in the cross hairs of many LGBT activists within the movement after it announced its support for the transgender-exclusive version of the bill yesterday. HRC President Joe Solmonese told the Associated Press in an interview that ENDA without gender identity and expression could eventually lead to legislation which protects transgender people.

"Sometimes with these sorts of complex and weighty legislative fights, the best way to move towards the ultimate piece of legislation you are looking for is to do it by degree," he said to the news agency.

Solmonese's own board last month voted to reaffirm a 2004 declaration in support of a trans-inclusive ENDA after Congressman Barney Frank [D-Mass.] reintroduced two versions of the bill which separated sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Freshman Democrats on Capitol Hill also expressed concern to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] and other blue leaders that they could not vote in favor of a trans-inclusive ENDA because of concerns related to their re-election bids. Politics remains a series of compromises but HRC's sudden change of heart undoubtedly raises a series of troubling questions among LGB and especially T activists who maintain their support for a trans-inclusive ENDA.

National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling acknowledged the politics at play in her almost daily ENDA update today. But she could barely contain her disappointment at HRC and other non-LGBT organizations which endorsed the trans-exclusive ENDA.

"That official abandonment of transgender people by these organizations yesterday may have therefore changed the vote count but we do not know," Keisling opined. "Some members of Congress will still make a principled NO vote and LGBT people should rush to support them."

HRC's decision arguably confirms the long-standing belief among transgender activists (and their supporters) that the lobbying group has never actually taken their concerns to heart. It also appears to confirm the conclusion the position that HRC fails to take into account the interests of the so-called rank and file LGB and especially T American. President Bush has already indicated he plans to veto ENDA. But HRC will certainly remain in many activists' cross hairs over its decision to officially endorse transgender exclusion in a historic piece of legislation.

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