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Equal Rights Washington comments on ENDA
Equal Rights Washington comments on ENDA
Greetings,

Congress just passed H 3685, the non-inclusive version of ENDA, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. The Vote was 235 to 184. All Washington Democrats voted for the bill joined by one Washington Republican Congressperson. All six Democratic Congresspeople are co-sponsors of H 2015, the inclusive version of ENDA, that includes gender identity. ENDA will likely now be introduced in the Senate. The President has indicated that he may veto ENDA. Below is ERW's Statement on the passage of H 3685. While ERW was opposed to H 3685 and urged that it not be brought to the floor because it was not inclusive of gender identity, ERW will not oppose the bill now that it has been passed by the House; rather, we will focus our efforts like a laser beam to ensure that gender identity is included in our nations employment nondiscrimination laws as quickly as possible. Given the likelihood of a Presidential veto of the legislation passed by the House today, if we continue our efforts across the country to educate Congress about gender identity and the lives of Transgender Americans we believe that we will see employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity enacted at the same time.

EQUAL RIGHTS WASHINGTON RESPONDS TO PASSAGE OF NON-INCLUSIVE ENDA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITS TO WORKING TOWARDS GENDER IDENTITY PROTECTIONS FOR ALL AMERICA'S WORKERS

The LGBT and allied civil rights communities are united in our desire to achieve workplace protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity as quickly as possible for all of America's workers.

Over the past month a divide has emerged in our community even while our goal remains the same. Some legislators, recently joined by a few LGBT and civil rights organizations, advocated for the immediate passage of a version of Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) that does not include gender identity, HR 3685. The vast majority of LGBT organizations said Congress should only pass ENDA if it is inclusive of gender identity, either in the form of the original inclusive bill, HR 2015, or by adopting Rep. Tammy Baldwin's amendment to HR 3685 to add gwender identity protections.

For over a month, ERW and other state-wide organizations have worked with such national groups as the Task Force, the NCLR, and the Equality Federation, under the banner of Untied ENDA, to ensure that only an inclusive ENDA would be considered in Congress. United ENDA, which grew to a coalition of over 350 groups, represents an unprecedented level of organizing in support of Transgender equality. While the Human Rights Campaign was not a part of United ENDA, and ultimately supported the non-inclusive version of ENDA, we thank them for their efforts to secure the votes for a fully inclusive bill. Unfortunately, we ultimately did not have the votes to bring HR 2015 to the floor or to pass Baldwin Amendment.

ERW and other organizations advocated for additional time to lobby members of Congress to support gender identity inclusion, even if this meant taking no action this year. The Democratic leadership promised to move forward a Transgender-inclusive ENDA as soon as there was sufficient support. Despite our objections, however, House leadership also decided to move forward with a non-inclusive version of ENDA. It is this non-inclusive version of ENDA that passed the house today.

This is not the path we would have chosen. The board of ERW remains committed to achieving employment protections for the Transgender community as soon as possible. In light of the current situation ERW will focus its attention on ensuring that the majority of our Congressional delegation supports, and actively works for, the inclusion of both sexual orientation and gender identity in our nation's employment nondiscrimination laws.

ERW views the recent divide in the community as a disagreement between friends with a common vision of equality, based on philosophical and tactical differences about how social change is best advanced. ERW' s position that only a Transgender-inclusive ENDA should move forward is rooted in our belief that it will be more difficult to add gender identity in the future than it would be to line up the votes for a Transgender-inclusive ENDA. For years the radical right has sought to divide the LGBT community and we believe that now is the time to take a stand and say we will not allow our community to be divided. While we wish all our allies shared this viewpoint, part of being in a large diverse movement is to recognize that we will not always be in agreement. We must be able to move beyond these disagreements in our quest for our common goal.

ERW is proud that our advocates have generated over 18,000 e-mails to demanding federal legislation inclusive of gender identity. We do not want anyone to think their phone calls, e-mails or meetings were in vain. Together we have conveyed our deep commitment to Transgender equality and we believe Washington' s Democratic Representatives and Senators are committed to gender identity employment protections.

We are pleased that ERW is formally affiliated with the newly formed Washington Transgender Equality Project. Working with this project we will continue to lobby our Congressional delegation in support of ENDA and furthermore we will work to hold other state and national groups accountable. With six co-sponsors of the Transgender-inclusive ENDA (H 2015) in the Washington House delegation, the problem is clearly not in Washington State. National and state organizations must develop the tools and commit the resources to put a human face on the issue of Transgender equality and secure legislation vital to the Transgender community. Our commitment to Transgender equality goes far deeper than ENDA. In 2008, ERW hopes to add gender identity to our state hate crimes law and we will continue to work on issues ranging from drivers licenses to Medicaid coverage for sex reassignment surgery.

Above all else we wish to convey to our advocates our desire that we all keep our eye on the prize of full equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. In any movement there will be disagreements. In this case, ERW was on the losing end. Nonetheless, if we remain committed to our common goal and refuse to allow past tactical disagreements to divide us, in the future we will secure gender identity protections.

Connie Watts
Executive Director
Equal Rights Washington

Marsha Botzer
Equal Rights Washington
Board Member
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