eQualityGiving’s Omnibus Equality Bill Proposal

eQualityGiving is proposing a bill to correct the unequal treatment of LGBT people in all areas of federal law – employment, housing and public accommodations discrimination, the American with Disabilities Act, DOMA, DADT, etc. Read about (and download) it here. Whether or not a comprehensive bill like this is ever introduced or enacted, I think it serves a useful purpose in uniting the debate on the many ways in which we are treated unequally and helping to ensure that the changes we seek are consistent.

What do you think?

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FYI, here is eQualityGiving’s email announcing its proposal:

INTRODUCING THE EQUALITY & RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT

Dear Abigail,

What if we asked for legal equality all at once in one comprehensive omnibus bill?

THE BLUEPRINT FOR LGBT EQUALITY

What would a bill for total legal equality look like? We asked attorney Karen Doering, a very experienced and savvy civil rights attorney, to prepare such a bill. It was presented and discussed on our listserv, which includes many of the major donors to the movement and the executive directors of all the major LGBTQ organizations.

We believe now is the time to introduce an omnibus bill.

We have prepared a section of our website with all the information about the proposed bill:
www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

There you can read the actual text of the bill and read the answers to the frequently asked questions. There is also a section reviewing the status of the incremental bills currently proposed. You can also post your comments directly on the site.

WHAT THE OMNIBUS BILL COVERS

1. Employment
2. Housing
3. Public accommodation
4. Public facilities
5. Credit
6. Federally funded programs and activities
7. Education
8. Disability
9. Civil marriage
10. Hate crimes
11. Armed forces
12. Immigration

INCREMENTALISM vs. OMNIBUS BILL

Some people think that an omnibus bill is too unrealistic to pursue because Congress functions in a very complex way. But the country voted for a new leader who promised major changes to the way our government functions.

We have tried incrementalism at the federal level for LGBT equality for 35 years without any results. Now is the best time to capitalize on the energy of new leadership and propose what we think change looks like.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“A right delayed is a right denied.”

Asking for an omnibus equality bill does not mean that we need to pursue it at the expense of incremental bills. Both approaches can be used simultaneously, and we encourage this strategy.

An Omnibus bill has two major benefits:

> It points out in clear legal terms all the areas in which we are not treated equally under the law. If we ask for less, we will certainly get less.

> An Omnibus bill provides a standard to which incremental victories can be compared. We may discover, for example, that even the trans-inclusive ENDA introduced in March 2007 still did not provide the same level of protections in employment that other groups receive.

SAY WHAT YOU THINK

If you believe that, in addition to incremental bills, we should also push for an Omnibus Equality Bill, tell your member of Congress, talk to your friends, and write about it on the site. All the info about the bill is here:

www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

For many months we have been preparing this Omnibus Equality Bill. Join us to push for it, so that we can achieve LGBT legal equality faster.

Best regards,

Juan Ahonen-Jover, Ph.D.
Ken Ahonen-Jover, M.D.
Founders, eQualityGiving

P.S. Please forward this alert to others who could be interested.

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UPDATE – 3/24/09

Recently, there has been some discussion in the blogosphere about the impact of what some believe to be a narrower definition of “gender identity” in the federal Hate Crimes Bill (HR1592) from 2007, when compared to the definition of that term in the gender-inclusive ENDA (HR2015) from that same year. (The Hate Crimes Bill defined “gender identity” as “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics,” while the inclusive version of ENDA defines it to mean “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth. To learn about this discussion, read Kathy Padilla’s recent posts on The Bilerico Project here and here.) In a comment I left on eQualityGiving’s website, I pointed out this difference and the risk of unnecessary litigation over whether the definitions are intended to have different meanings. In response, eQualityGiving has amended their Omnibus Bill to include the same definition in all its provisions, including hate crimes. The revised version of the bill, dated March 21, 2009, is available for download on eQualityGiving’s website.

In my original post, I failed to note one huge advantage eQualityGiving’s Omnibus Bill has over even the inclusive version of ENDA. Rather than enacting a separate statute with a broader exemption for religious organizations and other provisions that differ from existing civil rights law, eQualityGiving’s bill would simply amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the federal law banning sex, race and other discrimination in employment) by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its terms. As Karen Doering, the drafter of the Omnibus Bill, explains on the FAQ page for the bill, this approach has substantial advantages over ENDA. Having worked as an investigator of discrimination claims under Title VII and being familiar with its terms and, especially, how it has been interpreted by the courts, I see this as a major improvement over current proposals.

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Review: Law and Order SVU: Transgender Teen

Over on her “A T Revival” blog, Lori posted a review of last night’s episode of Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit. As I was in a very drowsy state as I tried to stay awake to watch it, I’m grateful that she wrote down her summary and opinions, filling in the parts I missed.

The following is a review of one woman’s take on tonight’s episode of Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit. NBC titled this particular episode “Stabler’s Comfort”. The episode tackled the issue of a 13 year old transgender girl named Hailey. You can watch a clip of the episode HERE. I typed these notes as I watched, so don’t hate on me if I screw up some of the details. I give my final take at the end, so stay tuned through to the conclusion at the end for my opinionated summary.

The opening scene is of a male victim whose genital area has been bleeding profusely, an obvious assault outside a local strip club and a case specifically for the Special Victims Unit.

At the station, an acrylic fingernail was found eventually leading forensics to prove that “the perp is definitely female.”

Olivia and Elliot, SVU’s main detectives, head over to the strip club to try and find the identity of the then unconscious victim and eventually meet up wtih Frankie the Bouncer, a butch lesbian who clues them in on the club.

Soon, through questioning of some of the strip club’s girls including “Misty,” the identity of the man is revealed to be Mark Van Curen, a Repo man who drives a tow truck.

Olivia and Elliot find their way to Mark’s soon to be ex wife Ellen who admitted she “would kill him” before he let him take his son away from her.

At this point, Henry, Ellen’s 13 year old “son,” is introduced to Olivia and Elliot as Hailey.

“My son is transgender,” Ellen says to a confused Olivia and Elliot. “When he was four he pranced around in a tutu and screamed ‘God made a mistake!'”

Read the rest of the summary, and Lori’s take on the episode here.

The Most Important Transition Question

I haven’t posted anything here in a while, normally I just use my own blog for stuff.  I thought this video was worth posting here because it concerns the entire trans community.  I’ve been wanting to make this video for a while and I finally got around to doing it, so here it is.

Stillettos and Sneakers – Haggard and God

alexandra_59-websizeThe amazing transgender actress Alexandra Billings is an even more amazing writer, in my opinion. She presents her opinion in ways that can really make you see complex issues much more clearly and succinctly. I’ve been following her Livejournal for some time now.

Today I noticed Alex had posted about Ted Haggard’s appearance on the Oprah Show. I like the way she doesn’t take the “He’s just a hypocrite” stance that so many other LGBTQ bloggers have. I like the way she can understand why he says the things he does. I like the way that she clearly makes the point that Haggard and his family could resolve the situation without losing their faith – that it’s the rules of their particular religion that prevents them from doing so right now.

And most of all, I like her last four paragraphs which demonstrate an insight that I’ve not seen expressed anywhere else. Anyone in a relationship in which one partner realizes their sexual or gender identity differs from the one they originally presented to their partner can learn from this, especially if they also have a strong religious faith.

As I commented on the post, the sad thing is that neither Haggard nor his wife are likely to ever read Alexandra’s words.

I Have a Dream!

I originally posted this one year ago today on my old Yahoo 360 blog, while the wound from transgender people being excluded from ENDA by HRC and Barney Frank was very raw (it still is).

Today is the day in the United States that we celebrate the dream of equality and freedom that the Rev. Martin Luther, Jr. inspired in this country and, I hope, in the world. There is not much that any of us can add to his inspiring words, so I simply invite all of you to take 17 1/2 minutes of your day to listen to his words and to share his dream. (The video and the direct link to YouTube are below.) As you do so, you might want to note as I did, the following words, which seem so appropriate today as we struggle for recognition of equal rights for all transgender people against the argument that we need to wait our turn, that incrementalism is the path to freedom and justice for us:

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” (Beginning @ 5:15 on the video below)

I followed up the next day with another post on Martin Luther King’s opposition to incrementalism and how he convinced LBJ that that was not the right approach:

As I noted yesterday, in his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed applying “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” to the civil rights struggle of that time.

More information about Dr. King’s opposition to that strategy came out last night on Bill Moyers’ Journal on PBS. During that program, Moyers recounted a previously unrevealed conversation between Dr. King and Lyndon Johnson that Moyers was privy to as a young presidential aide. (You can watch or read the transcript of this program here: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/watch4.html.) Initially, LBJ tried to convince Dr. King to quell the demonstrations and other unrest that he and others were encouraging, in order to help Johnson convince the white supremacists in Congress to approve the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In keeping with his words at the Lincoln Memorial, King refused, saying that “his people had already waited too long. He talked about the murders and lynchings, the churches set on fire, children brutalized, the law defied, men and women humiliated, their lives exhausted, their hearts broken.” After listening to King, Johnson changed his mind and told King to “keep doing what you’re doing, and make it possible for me to do the right thing.” King did as asked, LBJ used his legendary arm-twisting skills in the Senate and one of the most important pieces of legislation of the last century, and one that today provides the only glimmer of hope for protection against employment discrimination for most trans women and men in the U.S., was passed.

So, Lyndon Johnson insisted on doing what was right at the time, rather than what he thought was practical or pragmatic given the resistance he faced. As civil rights pioneer and U.S. House of Representatives member John Lewis said on the floor of the House during the ENDA debate last November [2007], “It is always the right time to do the right thing.” Johnson, King and many others knew this in 1963 and 1964. Why is it that today so many people believe that this principal doesn’t apply to our own struggle for equal rights?

Today is still the time to do the right thing! Perhaps, with Barack Obama’s inauguration tomorrow as our next President, we will finally begin to achieve the civil rights, the human rights, that we all deserve.

(Once again, cross-posted from my personal blog.)

Equality and Freedom but not for You or You…

HRC Logo.jpgThe fight for equality is an endless battle that has been fought for centuries. The tactics and faces have changed, but the outcome is far more important than any of that. I have always believed everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect. I know this does not happen. I have been victim of this myself although not at the levels some people have experienced or been subjected too. I am sure most people have experienced some form of incursion into their seance of equality and freedom. As children we know about this all too well. Until we are of a certain age we really do not have certain inalienable rights.

Continue reading “I am betting you are wondering where I am going with this.”

Some Thoughts on Activism

My friend Michael is one of the organizers of, and the webmaster for, the Central Arizona Gender Alliance. Recently, he asked me to write a profile of myself to be posted as the feature story on the CAGA website for January 2009. Rather than start from scratch, I adapted my “Who I Am and Why I Do What I Do” post. Since I wrote that post, however, my involvement in the issues affecting our community has increased. That led to the following comments that I added to the story that will appear on the CAGA site, which I wanted to share here.

While I have this chance, I also want to say some things about activism. The trans community in this country is small, and the number of those willing to speak out on the issues that affect us is even smaller. That means that each one of us is vital if we ever want the public’s attitude toward us, and the discrimination, hate and bigotry that we face, to change. It also means that one person can have a significant impact on the direction that our community takes in addressing the issues that we face.

It sounds clichéd, but I have learned through experience the truth of the statement that if I don’t do it, if I don’t step forward and say “this is wrong and must change,” if I don’t propose solutions and work to make them a reality, then who will? The answer is no one. It happens every day. We see or hear about something that we know is wrong – another trans woman shot in Memphis, another trans woman homeless because she can’t get a job – and we stand by in silence and do nothing. Those things will never change if you don’t work to change them, even if all you can do is to say “this is wrong.” Keep in mind too that, although it is important that we in the trans community know about these injustices, it is our families and friends, our lesbian, gay and bisexual sisters and brothers, and the general public that need to hear our voices. So many people truly have no idea about the mistreatment that we suffer, how widespread it is and how few protections exist to ensure that most basic of human rights: the right to live lives of peace and dignity. Those are the people we need to speak to, because it is their sense of justice and morality that we need to invoke if we ever want things to change.

Is it scary to step forward and say, “I am trans, this is wrong and it must stop”? Of course, it is. But there are also rich rewards in showing the world that we are proud of who we are, that we refuse to cower in the darkness of ignorance and hate any longer, and in knowing that we are helping to change the world, not just for ourselves, but for people everywhere. Join me! Today do just one thing to make the world a better place to live, whether that’s giving a hug to a friend you know is having a hard time, writing a letter to the editor or simply telling your story. But, most of all, Be Who You Are!!

(Cross-posted from my personal blog.)