After...how long is that? Forever? Really?...the Congress has a couple of bills before it which would actually be beneficial to the GLBT community. And...horror of horrors...to transfolk as well.
What's up with that?
The two bills go by the unofficial names of the Matthew Shepard Act and ENDA. They cover two of the parts of what I have in the past considered the heart of The Gay Agenda:
- the right to not be fired for being GLBT
- the right to not be thrown out of our residences if discovered to be GLBT
- the right to be served in a restaurant
- the right not to be beaten up every other Tuesday
- Note: I am aware that other people think that marriage equality and the right to serve in the military are also at the heart of said agenda. I'm of the feeling that maybe they are more of the lungs. What I listed in the box affect all GLBT people, including those who are not in relationships or who have no interest in the military (including those who, like myself, who have already served, thank you).
H. R. 1913 is the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, also known as the "All Conservatives are Hate Criminals" Act because, presumably, such people want to be free to act on their hate when push comes to shove. GLBT people often refer to it as the Matthew Shepard Act.
And to those who don't get it: No, this is not about "thought crimes." It is aimed at actions combined with terroristic threatening.
Be that as it may. H. R. 1913 was passed by the House April 29, 2009 and currently has the status of "referred in Senate."
What the bill would do is add the statuses "victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability" to the 1969 US Federal Hate Crimes Act.
Yes. You read that correctly. The question is not whether or not we should have hate crimes laws, but rather whether they should cover some of the most frequent targets of hate crimes.
For those who may think this is according "special status" or special rights" to the groups mentioned, you would be misinformed. This bill is not about according status. It concerns removing status: the status of target.
Additionally the bill "declares that nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit the exercise of constitutionally-protected free speech."
The bill would also:
- remove the current prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity, like voting or going to school;
- give federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue;
- provide $10 million in funding for 2008 and 2009 to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes;
- require the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people (statistics for the other groups are already tracked).
The Senate version of this bill is S. 909. Sponsored by Ted Kennedy, this bill has 44 cosponsors. If yours is not among them, have you asked him or her why?
To quote Senator Kennedy:
Passing this bill will send a message, loud and clear, that those who victimize individuals because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability will go to prison. In addition, passing this bill will provide Federal, State, local, and tribal authorities with stronger means to prosecute crimes of hate. It has been over 10 years since Matthew Shepard was left to die on a fence in Wyoming because of who he was. It has also been 10 years since this bill was initially considered by Congress. In those 10 years, we have gained the political and public support that is needed to make this bill become law. Today, we have a President who is prepared to sign hate crimes legislation into law, and a Justice Department that is willing to enforce it. We must not delay the passage of this bill. Now is the time to stand up against hate-motivated violence and recognize the shameful damage it is doing to our Nation.
Here's Attorney General Holder's testimony from yesterday.
There's a telling response at the bottom in that link, which is a pretty good answer to the question immediately following it:
I hate these people, and am proud to hate them, it is my religion to hate them.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Why is this bill necessary?
Every act of violence is tragic and harmful, but not all crime is motivated by hate. Hate crimes occur when the perpetrator chooses the victim because of who the victim is or appears to be. These crimes are typically more violent and brutal, often involving attempts to dehumanize and ridicule the attacked individual. The violent murders of individuals like Angie Zapata and Brandon Teena not only terrorize their friends and family, but the transgender community as a whole. Existing state laws vary greatly in the scope of what they cover and most do not include gender identity.
The other bill before Congress is H. R. 2981, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, also known as ENDA. Introduced by Barney Frank, this bill has only 10 cosponsors. Odds are, your representative is not among them.
This bill specifically does not require the imposition of quotas, so we can get rid of that right off the bat. It prohibits employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, and training programs from treating individuals differently because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or because they associate with such a person. Religious organizations are exempted as is the military. Veteran's preferences are not superseded. States will not be immune.
It is not everything that transfolk might desire. While employers are required to provide reasonable access to restrooms (and showers and dressing rooms, if appropriate) commensurate with an employee's gender identity, additional facilities to those already present need not be constructed. And there is a statement about "dressing and grooming standards":
Nothing in this Act shall prohibit an employer from requiring an employee, during the employee's hours at work, to adhere to reasonable dress or grooming standards not prohibited by other provisions of Federal, State, or local law, provided that the employer permits any employee who has undergone gender transition prior to the time of employment, and any employee who has notified the employer that the employee has undergone or is undergoing gender transition after the time of employment, to adhere to the same dress or grooming standards for the gender to which the employee has transitioned or is transitioning.
Transfolk would not be remiss, in my opinion, from reading this as saying that transsexual people are protected, but other transgender people are not (i.e. that binary gender is being protected).
Enforcement will be congruent with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991, or the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, whichever is appropriate.
It is not everything transpeople would have hoped for, in my opinion. The "dressing and grooming standards" will still allow discrimination against gay men who dress "too femininely", lesbians who are "too butch" and transfolk who are not transitioning.
But I'm sure I am not alone in expecting that it would come with deficiencies.
Here are some links to recent stories/resources:
Day after day, we hear from transgender people who have lost their jobs for no other reason than plain and simple discrimination. This includes people who have had long and distinguished careers who, after they transition, suddenly find themselves unable to find meaningful work and young transgender people who are unable to get their first job. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act will be an important step in helping these folks get to work.
--Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality
A simple story about a boy by indiemcemopants at Daily Kos
LGBT people: Let's get useful by sad pony guerilla girl at Daily Kos
Inclusive ENDA 2009: Can A Viral Facebook Campaign Make It Happen? by drjillygirl at Pam's House Blend
Transgender Workplace Diversity by Jillian T. Weiss