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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?

******************************
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.

********************************

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.

I’m clearly upset!

Hi Everyone,
This one may be short, we’ll see what happens. The other day I was reading someone’s blog (I’m really sorry I forgot where I originally saw this. If anyone knows, please give credit where credit is due.) and was guided to the following link: Intersex Infant surgical abuse. PLEASE watch the video.

It is a sad and aggravating story about a woman that adopted a baby that turned out to be intersex. Not that big of a deal on the surface right. Well not quite so fast. The doctor wanted to do invasive surgery to “FIX” the child and the mother told the doctor not to do any surgery at all. Later, after the mother had taken the baby home, the doctor called her and told her that the baby’s single testicle may become cancerous and they should do a biopsy to make sure. The doctor CLEARLY went against the mother’s wishes and removed the testicle trying to turn the child into a girl. UGGGGGGGG. PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO. I feel that it is very important that everyone watches the video and if you can please pass it on to others.
Why is it so important? Have you heard of Alice Dreger? To quote TSRoadmap, “Dreger is the J. Michael Bailey of the intersex community: someone whose trade is writing and speaking about controversies surrounding marginalized populations.” Read this and maybe you’ll understand. Anyways, its people like this that give make this world so difficult for the intersex and transgender communities. Ugggg. I also believe its attitudes like this “I know better than you” that give doctors like the one in the story above the attidude that they can do anything they want. What do you think?
I said I would keep it short, so I’ll say good night for now. Thanks for listening.
Michelle

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.)

Still More on Transsexual Marriage Rights

The discussion on various Yahoo groups that I belong to regarding the impact of the same-sex marriage bans just enacted in Arizona, California and Florida on marriages involving one or more transgender partner continues.  I’ve previously posted about those issues here and here.  This is my most recent addition to that discussion: Continue reading

My thoughts as TDOR approaches

On the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance 2008 I find myself reading sites on TDOR and it saddens me to no end what hatred can do to someone. I’ve hidden my true feelings most of my life in fear of this ignorance and hate. Fear of losing my family, friends or worse, having a run-in with one of the hatemongers who profess to know better than I do. Several years ago I hit a time in my life where hiding who I am was not working for me anymore. So I started the process of transition to get my life back on track. I’ve learned a lot over the years and know that I am on the right path for me.

During my skimming of the sites discussing TDOR, I came across some links to sites that profess to know what’s best for me (yah right) and I’d like to take some of the comments that were left at these various sites and personally reply to them here. Continue reading

Transgender Day of Remembrance – 2008

Tomorrow, November 20, 2008, is the 10th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. I’m not going to attempt to describe all the emotions that this day, and the reason it is needed, raise in me. Suffice it to say that it brings up the most profound sadness and doubt about the future, about whether it will ever be possible to create a world without hate. But I will not stop striving to create that world, because, without it, all hope is lost and I know that I cannot live without hope.

Please visit the websites below to find out more about the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the location of a vigil near you where you can join with others to honor those who have died because of who they are. Continue reading

Introduction

Hi. Recently I was invited to post on TRANScend GENDER and I thought it made sense to introduce myself first. Firstly I’m a cisgender female, so my perspective is not that of a person experiencing GID or transition. This makes me a little nervous, but I hope I can still make some contribution.

There are two things I’m likely to post about. The first is gender in general: gender roles, stereotypes, fluidity of gender, etc. The second, which is perhaps the reason for my invitation in the first place, is my developing understanding of transgender issues and how this process has impacted on my life. This has been a year of transition for me…just not the kind of transition that is usually discussed here. 🙂 I have, for most of my life, been a member of the Mormon church – a church that has pretty conservative doctrines and policies when it comes to gender, gender roles, and related issues such as gender reassignment and sexual orientation. Over the last year or so, I’ve rejected many of the beliefs I once held, and I plan to resign membership in that church by the end of the year.

Several months ago I came across riftgirl’s blog and through that I have also found several other blogs written by people who are transgender. This exposure to transgender people and issues has been very helpful to me. I feel awkward and lacking in life experience because there are so many things I don’t know or have no experience with and losing my faith, which right or wrong has been a big part of my life and identity, has been easier to process in the face of so much evidence that the teachings of the Church are inadequate in dealing with real people in real situations that do not fit neatly into pre-defined boxes.

I make no claim to understand what it feels like to be transgender, but I don’t think I need to understand that completely in order to accept that GID is real, to consider the issues it creates, or to be supportive of transgender people.

BBC – Transsexual gene link identified

Australian researchers have identified a significant link between a gene involved in testosterone action and male-to-female transsexualism.

DNA analysis from 112 male-to-female transsexual volunteers showed they were more likely to have a longer version of the androgen receptor gene.

The genetic difference may cause weaker testosterone signals, the team reported in Biological Psychiatry (abstract available here).

However, other genes are also likely to play a part, they stressed.

Increasingly, biological factors are being implicated in gender identity.

There is a social stigma that transsexualism is simply a lifestyle choice, however our findings support a biological basis of how gender identity develops

Professor Vincent Harley, researcher

Read the rest: BBC – Transsexual gene link identified

“A Boy’s Life” in The Atlantic

The November 2008 issue of The Atlantic magazine contains an article called “A Boy’s Life.”  It’s a comprehensive exploration of the topic of transgender children:  where it comes from, the struggles that parents and children experience as they strive to find ways to deal with it, and the difficult choices they must make in that process.

I’m not sure how I feel about this article.  Much of it is troubling, since I wish the whole topic of the origins of being transgender and how best to treat it to be neat and simple, but it just isn’t.  In the end, I believe that children should be allowed to make their own decisions to the extent that’s feasible.  (Obviously, that’s a huge loophole, but, for the moment, I have neither the time nor the inclination to try to define my position any further.)  If a child typed as a boy at birth wants to live as a girl, she should be allowed to do that with her parents’ support.  At the same time, her parents need to make clear that either choice is OK.  If she later decides that she wants to live as a boy, that too should be allowed.  Will it be more difficult then?  Yes, of course.  Every choice we make has consequences and, as much as we might like to, we cannot insulate our children from the consequences of their choices any more than we can avoid the consequences of our own.  But I believe that the challenges of returning to life as a boy, after living as a girl for weeks or months or years, will be less traumatic than growing up never having had the chance to have that experience and to make a more informed decision about her future.

Eventually, she will be faced with decisions that will have permanent, physical consequences — whether to begin cross-sex hormones, whether to have SRS.  That is where the use of hormone blockers has the greatest benefit, since they delay the onset of changes that will make living in her affirmed gender infinitely harder until she has the maturity and the information she needs to make that momentous decision, while retaining the option of allowing her puberty to proceed as it would without intervention.  In the end, however, it must be her decision, not her parents’, not her doctor’s.  None of can know what is truly best for another person, even our children.  All we can do is ask Spirit to guide our choices and the choices of our children and then trust that She will respond to our calls.

(Crossposted from my personal blog.)

Diane Schroer’s Recent Title VII Win and ENDA

Jillian Weiss, an attorney and law professor who writes an excellent blog on transgender workplace issues recently posted an excellent article on The Bilerico Project with her thoughts on last week’s decision by the federal district court in Washington, D.C. in Diane Schroer’s sex discrimination lawsuit against the Library of Congress. In a landmark decision, Judge James Robertson held that the Library violated the federal ban on sex discrimination in employment (contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) when it withdrew its previous offer to hire David Schroer, an anti-terrorism expert and former Special Forces officer, as a terrorism analyst when they learned that she intended to complete her transition and begin work as Diane. Among the arguments that the Library made in its defense was the claim that the exclusion of gender identity and expression protections from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the House of Representatives last year proved that Congress never intended the ban on sex discrimination to protect against discrimination based on gender identity. Fortunately for all of us, the court rejected that argument. However, the argument that Judge Robertson used to reject that claim is weak and, as Zoe Brain pointed out in her comment on the same article, not very convincing. There are, however, much better reasons to reject the Library’s claim, which I put into my comment on Dr. Weiss’ article:

I’m an attorney and my practice is limited to appellate work only (criminal appeals in my case, but the rules for interpreting statues are the same whether you’re talking about civil or criminal law). The argument that the exclusion of gender identity and expression from ENDA last year indicates Congress’ understanding, and intention, that sex discrimination under Title VII doesn’t cover gender identity discrimination is an obvious one. In the end, however, it’s completely bogus.

Ask yourself, how is the belief or understanding of a completely different Congress almost 45 years after Title VII was enacted relevant to what Congress intended sex discrimination to include back in 1964? It’s not the job of Congress to decide what laws they’ve already passed mean. That’s the job of the courts.

Two other important factors further undercut this argument. First, if you review the congressional record from 1964, you will see that sex discrimination was added to Title VII with the explicit intent to defeat it by convincing the majority of Congress that it was too radical to vote for. So, there’s no evidence in the record that Congress intended sex discrimination to mean anything, let alone evidence as to whether they intended “sex” to apply only to biology or to include gender identity.

Second, what happened last year was simply that a single committee of the House of Representatives sent a bill to the floor of the House that didn’t include gender identity and that the House passed that bill. It was never passed by the Senate or signed into law. Consequently, while it may be proper to say that the House Labor Committee didn’t think that gender identity discrimination should be illegal, there is no evidence that the full House or the Senate agreed, since they were never given the opportunity to vote on that question. Divining legislative intent from Congress’ *failure* to do something without any explicit up or down vote on the issue is a perilous business.

Finally, I’m no conservative by any measure, but I agree with Justice Scalia that the first place we have to look in determining what Congress intended is what they actually said. It frustrates me to no end when the courts here in Arizona agree with prosecutors that, despite the explicit language in a statute, the legislative history shows that they meant something entirely different. At some point, what the legislature or Congress actually said has to mean something.

This is not an argument that, if Congress didn’t think about the problem in 1964, Title VII shouldn’t apply to it. As one person involved with the Schroer case (it may have been Sharon McGowan, the ACLU’s lead attorney) recently said to a reporter when asked if Congress intended Title VII to apply to trans women and men, the framers of the Constitution weren’t thinking about TV either when they talked about freedom of the press in the First Amendment; does that mean it shouldn’t have the same protections as newspapers?

Change is a natural process that preexisting laws must continually adapt to. It is the difficult but absolutely necessary job of courts to determine how those laws should be applied to situations that the people who adopted them never contemplated. That doesn’t make the process illegitimate; it just makes it very, very hard.