Press

Rea Carey's remarks from ENDA press conference

Date: 
May 18, 2010

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Remarks by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

ENDA Press Conference
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
National Press Club

Good Afternoon,

I’m Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the nation’s oldest national civil rights advocacy organization creating change for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

I’m proud to be here with my colleagues, who will be introduced throughout our press conference. We have come together to bring to bear the outraged and dedicated voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and other fair-minded people on one of the most important moral issues of the day for our community: the right to join with others in contributing our talents, skills and expertise to this nation’s workforce.

We’re here today to demand that Congress pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, without delay. This press conference is part of a week of national actions about ENDA.

Despite a record number of sponsors and endorsements for passage of this landmark civil rights legislation, ENDA remains locked in committee as the clock winds down on the opportunity to act.

The good news is — after many years of working together, and having criss-crossed many aisles and diverse points of view — the House of Representatives stands poised to pass historic employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for the first time in our nation’s history.

Every one of our organizations has had a hand in this, for this day has been decades in the making.

  • Federal protections for lesbian and gay workers were first introduced as part of a comprehensive bill outlawing discrimination against lesbian and gay people in housing, employment and public accommodation, the Equality Act of 1974, introduced by Representatives Bella Abzug and Edward I. Koch.
  • Twenty years later, the comprehensive bill was abandoned for one that was destined to “pass quickly,” a streamlined, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, put forward in 1994, which has been introduced in every Congress since, except the 109th.

So the LGBT community has been educating, lobbying, organizing, strategizing and waiting patiently for basic employment protections for 36 years. Thirty-six years — that’s a full work lifecycle for a generation of LGBT workers.

We are at the end of our patience.

  • In this Congress alone, we have organized over 200 constituent Hill visits to members of the House and Senate.
  • 1,300 LGBT volunteers and our straight allies and friends and family called 36,000 constituents in key districts resulting in 30,600 calls to members of Congress.
  • In local efforts, we have made close to 100 in-district meetings, tens of thousands of phone calls, and sent countless letters and e-mails in our efforts to pass this legislation.

We have done our work. We have provided the numbers and the stories; and we have endured as we’ve watched thousands of LGBT workers lose their foothold in a struggling economy — not because of downsizing, or poor performance or closed businesses — but because of prejudice, because of malice, and because there are no institutional consequences to arbitrary and unethical behavior by individuals or businesses who would exclude LGBT people from the basic tenets of our great democracy.

So today, Congress must step up to its responsibility, to fully accept its charge to serve its constituents. To step up to its moral obligation to preserve the integrity of the very fabric of our nation by providing an accessible workplace to all Americans — regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Pass ENDA today.

We want to extend our gratitude to champions on this bill - Speaker Pelosi, Congressman Barney Frank, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Jared Polis, who lead the LGBT Caucus and all who have helped and worked to get ENDA so close to the finish line. Today we call upon the leadership to now to move this bill forward, crossing the finish line to end discrimination in the workplace.

There are some wonderful advocates to hear from today, and one who was not able to make it: Frank Kameny, a founding board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a giant of the modern LGBT rights movement.

Frank’s work as one of our fiercest advocates for equality began in 1957, when, as a Harvard trained astronomer and veteran of World War II, he refused to name his gay colleagues in a closed door meeting with federal officials. Frank was summarily dismissed from a job he was eminently qualified for, and loved.

Purely on the basis of his sexual orientation, Frank’s letter of termination deemed him “Unsuitable for federal employment.”

Rather than be cowed by the aggressive, discriminatory acts of a government he’d risked his life to secure, Frank made it his life’s work to protect the rights of any and all who would find themselves in such a room.

Dr. Kameny celebrates his 85th birthday this week, and was not able to join us today, but sent his regrets and added: “To say that I am a supporter of ENDA is an understatement."

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The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, founded in 1974 as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc., works to build the grassroots political power of the LGBT community to win complete equality. We do this through direct and grassroots lobbying to defeat anti-LGBT ballot initiatives and legislation and pass pro-LGBT legislation and other measures. We also analyze and report on the positions of candidates for public office on issues of importance to the LGBT community. The Task Force Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation incorporated in New York. Contributions to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund are not tax deductible.