LGBT Labor Day

It’s hard to write about Labor Day without discussing the work and struggles of our LGBT brothers and sisters. We’ve been fighting for the right to work for decades and we still have not achieved that status. The first ENDA-like bill didn’t go so well:

A bill was introduced into the US congress in the mid 1970’s which would do for gays and lesbians what various civil rights bills had done for African-Americans, women and others. It went nowhere.

So we fought harder for the freedom to keep our jobs. In 1994, another attempt at ENDA was made and it failed, under President Clinton. Then, during the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act, they tried to sneak it in again:

When the Defense of Marriage Act (the anti-gay marriage bill) was considered by the Senate, a bipartisan coalition attempted to attach the ENDA bill, as an amendment. Republican leaders eventually compromised by separating the two bills and allowing ENDA to be brought forward for a separate vote.

It was reintroduced in 1996-SEP with the backing of the House and Senate Democratic minority leaders. The bill was characterized by conservative Republicans as controversial, immoral, and un-American. This time, it actually made it to a Senate vote; it was narrowly defeated 49 to 50.

Unions strongly support this bill and have been pushing for its passage:

Subject: Vote YES on ENDA

Dear [ Decision Maker ] ,

The House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

As a proud AFSCME union member, I believe in workplace equality. People should be hired and fired based on their merits — not the color of their skin, religious beliefs or because they happen to be gay.

Sadly, in 2007, employees in 31 states can still be fired simply because of their sexual orientation. This is not only wrong–it’s un-American.

Please stand up to workplace discrimination. I urge you to vote YES on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Sincerely,

The ENDA bill has 89% support of the American people. It has 198 cosponsors in the House and 45 cosponsors in the Senate. At a time when unemployment is fluctuating between 9-11% LGBT people are suffering too. We need to be able to gain a job without fear of being fired for being LGBT or being perceived as LGBT. And that’s what ENDA would do. It’s really not that controversial.

Proponents of the law intend it to address cases where gay, lesbian and/or transgender employees have been discriminated against by their employer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, these employees are unable to find protection in the judicial system of most US states. Proponents argue that such a law is appropriate in light of the US Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process to all.

I wrote in December 2009 about a seventeen year old transgender girl who was not only refused a job because of her gender but was mocked and received a threatening voicemail:

Seventeen year old Zikerria Bellamy filed a job discrimination complaint against McDonald’s in Orlando, Forida, alleging she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender. I’ve written about this type of thing before where I addressed discrimination’s effects on people.

It’s looking more and more like ENDA won’t be addressed til next year, if at all; it’s an election year after all.

And here we are in 2010 and still nothing.

Here’s more:

97 percent of the respondents reported being mistreated or harassed at work, and nearly half (47 percent) said they had lost their jobs, were denied a promotion, or denied a job as a direct result of being transgender. The Task Force is partnering with the National Center for Transgender Equality

I wrote before about the disproportionate rate which LGBT people are affected by being jobless and concluded:

And given the high level of joblessness you’d think that, well, after all this, gays could at least have an opportunity to have a job. Sounds really good. The American dream and all that. We can work and prosper. Except, we can’t. In over half of the states there are no protections against employment discrimination for LGBT people. And at best, people are still trying to eliminate protections for transgender people in the current ENDA bill – which isn’t even likely to get taken up in the first place.

Not to mention the fact that if employment discrimination is allowed, what do you think happens when employees want benefits for themselves and their husband or wife? Think they’re just given? They’re not, in a lot of cases. So even having a job, if you can get one, doesn’t help you or your husband or wife with health care

But, you say, as a last resort for employment, we can do what lots of poor kids do. We can join the military. I don’t think this point needs further elaboration. Gays are still being dispensed with quickly and unfairly despite the so-called "more humane approach" (to keep allowing discrimination in a kinder way.)

So, tell me, what are we supposed to do? Things right now are difficult for white, heterosexual males in this country. For gay people they’re a million times worse. For black lesbian women, I can’t even think of a relative term to describe how fucking hard it must be.

We need ENDA NOW. Call your senators and congresspeople.

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Scottie Thomaston (indiemcemopants) is a 26-year-old Alabama blogger who has written about politics on various blogs since age seventeen. A disabled, ‘out’ gay man, his principal themes have been LGBT rights, torture, NSA spying and the challenges of disability. His pieces have appeared on Daily Kos (where he also moderates a community series on disability), Firedoglake; and on his own blog, "Ignorance is…" The quality of his writing earned him a 2010 Netroots Nation scholarship from Democracy For America and a citation in the New York Times Opinionator column. He is actively building his career as a professional new media journalist.

You can find him on Twitter: @indiemcemopants

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