Press

NGLTF Supports Trans Inclusion in ENDA

Date: 
June 16, 1999

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) released the following statement today regarding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The following is attributable to Kerry Lobel, executive director of NGLTF.

Bella Abzug demonstrated great courage and conviction in 1974 when she introduced this country's first comprehensive civil rights bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Civil rights for gay people were not a popular cause and she knew at the time that the bill was many years away from passage. Bella knew something that we could all stand to learn again — it's not about political pragmatism, its about progressive principles.

The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is due to be reintroduced in the coming weeks. ENDA would ban job discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. We encourage debate and discussion in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement about the scope and strategy surrounding ENDA.

NGLTF has been advocating for language expressly covering transgendered people in ENDA. We have met with members of Congress, advocacy organizations and transgender activists. We firmly believe that this advocacy process is moving the agenda for GLBT equality forward. We have been clear that our mission does not allow for leaving anyone behind.

In 1997, NGLTF amended its mission statement to include the struggle for equal rights for transgendered people. The discrimination, harassment and violence transgendered people experience in this society is shameful. We believe that there is one movement for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. Federal, state and local laws are necessary to end this injustice. In fact, transgender inclusion is becoming more accepted as part of civil rights bills across the country. The state of Minnesota includes transgendered people in its non-discrimination law. Many cities include transgender protections of some kind including: Cambridge, (MA), Evanston (IL), New Orleans (LA), Pittsburgh (PA), Portland (OR), Seattle (WA), San Francisco (CA) and Santa Cruz (CA), and York (PA).

To build a transformational movement, we must take the risks that challenge conventional thinking. When the forces against us are strong and feel overwhelming, the response cannot be fear and political expediency. The true test of democracy is how it embraces those who look, act, and think differently, not just those who are the same. This is the world we dream of — one that values the worth and dignity of every person.

Without the inclusion of transgendered people, NGLTF cannot endorse ENDA. We do not oppose ENDA, but advocate adding language that is more inclusive. We intend to do no harm to ENDA or to the cause of GLB equality. But just as our African American colleagues in several states have refused to move forward on hate crimes legislation that covers race but not sexual orientation, we too feel obligated to move forward together. We will continue to do the education and advocacy to raise awareness of transgender discrimination.

Every individual and organization must make decisions about the best way to make change and move forward within its own mission and principles. All who claim to be transgender inclusive need to examine what they can do to advance the movement for transgender equality. We know that our colleague organizations are in deep reflection about the best way to move forward as one movement and we respect that process.

This is a difficult issue for everyone. Principled politics is not a popularity contest. Over the years, we have not wavered and ultimately our vision has often prevailed. This struggle is not the responsibility of any one organization or a particular member of Congress. This is about a long-term vision of a unified movement for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered equality. NGLTF is committed to that vision and to making this a better society for all of us.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movementís premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.