Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bill banning workplace discrimination against gay, lesbians and bisexuals stalled in Congress over issue of inclusion of transgender protection

Legislation banning workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals has stalled in the House of Representatives over the issue of inclusion language protecting transgender people. House Democrats said while they have the votes to pass a bill banning workplace discrimination against gays, lesbian and bisexuals, they don't have the votes if transgender people are included. Republicans had not permitted votes on similar measures while they controlled the House in past years.

According to Representative Barney Frank, "There is more resistance to protection for people who are transgender than for people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual. This is not a good fact, but ignoring bad facts is a bad way to get legislation passed." Frank said having the votes to pass a bill banning discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals is historic.

Frank and Representative Tammy Baldwin, both openly gay members of Congress, sought more time for the legislation to allow constituent lobbying to build support for a bill that includes transgender people following the outcry by gay rights groups angered by the weaker alternative legislation being considered.

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act would make it illegal for employers to make decisions about hiring, firing, promoting or paying an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Churches and the military would be exempt.

A law protecting gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the workplace, even if it excluded transgender people, would be a step forward for American society. However, the likelihood that there would be only a temporary delay of a year or two in including transgender protection may be wishful thinking. While the future is impossible to predict it is quite possible it may be a very long time before they are embraced by legal protection. As Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings puts it:
The only reason anyone is so much as thinking about stripping protection for transgendered people from this bill is because they are a lot less visible than gay men and lesbians. If we want to block not just this particular injustice, but all of them, then we need to change that. And I can't think of any good reason why those of us who are not transgendered should wait for transgendered people to bring their situation to our attention. Between paying for surgery, telling the people they know, dealing with hormones and therapy and electrolysis and so on, and navigating what I'm sure are the absolute delights of a workplace transition, I imagine they have enough on their plates already.

Write or call your congressional representative and urge them to support H.R. 2015 including the language protecting transgender people.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. This is a very important piece of legislation and it will be interesting to see how everything plays out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sisyphus. Another thing people may not realize about the substitute bill is that it isn't simply the same bill with the transgender language removed. It is a substantially different and weaker bill in other ways, and would essentially be useless in protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual employees as well.

There is an excellent legal analysis from Lambda Legal and the Transgender Law Center that explains the problems with the bill, available here:

It would be a huge mistake to allow this flawed bill to go forward in the name of "incremental progress." GWB has promised to veto the bill this year in any case. Let's wait and get it right the first time.