Every Voice Counts for ENDA

Yesterday, I joined the GetEqual picket for ENDA on Capitol Hill. About 20 of us met on the corner just across the street from the Library of Congress and the Cannon House office building.  For about an hour, we marched around the block, watched by cops and protected by organizers and a legal observer.  We yelled our hearts out to all who could hear that we wanted to see ENDA passed and workplace discrimination made illegal in this country.

Seeing the effectiveness of actions like this can be hard for me, but feeling them isn’t.  As I marched and screamed, I thought of all of the privileges that brought me to Capitol Hill, my income, my education, and not least of all, the fact that not only do I have a job, but I have a job that encourages me to participate in such actions.  Not everyone is just as blessed, yet it should be their right.  Yesterday, I was screaming for everyone that has ever been fired, harassed and harmed in an unsafe workplace because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I screamed for transgender people all over the country who are fighting for their very right to exist and being denied jobs and human dignity for just having the courage to live into their truest selves.  Witnessing their struggle challenges me to use my gifts and talents to do the same.

As I marched, I saw more than a few people stare past us and continue on to wherever they were going in the same way that I’ve often passed pickets and protests.  One can grow a thick skin living in this town where change is slow and one’s voice is rarely heard through “official channels”.  But I also saw people smiling at us and nodding their heads to the beat of our chants.  People walked by in the black and blue suits of Congressional office staff and chanted with us as our paths crossed. Members of Congress passed us on their way to or from their offices.  We drew the attention of everyone on the block and people came out of their offices and onto the balcony of the Cannon House office building to see us.  I remembered that small groups of people can have an impact, even if it’s a loud and mostly symbolic reminder to those in power that we and the people we represent will no longer be silent and we’re not going away.

The UUA is part of a larger effort to pass legislation that upholds the human right to earn a living with dignity, and I am bound by my humanity, to play a role in that effort.You can make your voice heard by taking action today and emailing your elected officials about ENDA

Blogswarm: Demand LGBT Employment Rights Today!

Note: This reposting comes from a blogswarm today with Daily Kos, Open Left, Americablog, Towleroad, Pam’s House Blend, Joe My God, Michelangelo Signorile, David Mixner, Daily Gotham, Culture Kitchen, Taylor Marsh, PageOneQ, Dan Savage, GoodAsYou, and many others all blogging about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employment rights. We’re asking our readers to contact Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask that she move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HR 3017) to a floor vote.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, first introduced in 1994, would prohibit job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But LGBT people have never been able to achieve the enactment of the bill, known by the acronym of “ENDA”. Last year, the Administration’s highest ranking gay official, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, indicated that ENDA was highest priority on the LGBT civil rights agenda.

“If we can get ENDA enacted and signed into law, it is only a matter of time before all the rest happens,” he said. “It is the keystone that holds up the whole bunch, and so we need to focus our energies and attention there.”

Hearings were held last Fall in the House and in the Senate to demonstrate the need for the bill, and testimony was heard on the severe unemployment, underemployment and harassment experienced by LGBT workers. Witnesses testified to the scientific studies demonstrating this.

National Faith Call-In Day for Workplace Equality

On Thursday, November 19th, please join people of many faiths across the country in calling for an end to workplace discrimination. The House of Representatives could vote soon on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA (H.R. 3017/S. 1584). ENDA would protect bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender workers from discrimination based solely on who they are or who they love.

Everyone has the right to work for a living without facing such discrimination. Call your Representative on Thursday, Nov. 19th by dialing 202-224-3121 and asking for them by name. If you don’t know your Represenative’s name, the Capitol Switchboard operators can look it up using your zip code. Here is a sample call script:

I am your constituent, and I am also a Unitarian Universalist. I am calling to ask the Senator/Representative to support and co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3017). This bill would guarantee basic protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I support fair employment practices for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans because I respect the inherent worth and dignity of all persons. Thank You.

You can find more information about ENDA on UUA.org. Our multi-faith campaign also includes a sign on letter for clergy and religious leaders at http://goldenruleatwork.org. Check it out, and please take a few minutes on Thursday to call your Representative and raise your voice for workplace equality!

Help us End Employment Discrimination

I have nothing to add to Rev. Meg Riley’s poignant words below about the vote in Maine last night. What I can do is assure you that those of us at the Washington Office for Advocacy and the Standing on the Side of Love campaign will continue to do everything in our power to advocate for full equality for bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender (BGLT) individuals and communities. But we can’t do it without you.

Today, the Standing on the Side of Love campaign sent over 8,000 petition signatures to members of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee. Tomorrow morning, these Senators will hear testimony on the Employment Non Discrimination-Act (ENDA) in the first Senate Hearings on the bill since 2002. If passed, ENDA would guarantee basic federal protection from workplace discrimination for BLGT employees.
When so many people are unemployed or fear that they will be lose their jobs due to the current economy, it is unconscionable to think that many workers must also fear being fired, overlooked for promotions or being harassed just because of who they are or who they love.
The House of Representatives could vote on this bill as early as next week. It is critical that your Senators and Representatives hear from you NOW! Ask your members of Congress to stand up for justice and equality, and help us pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The 2009 Transgender Religious Summit

Yesterday I was privileged to co-lead a workshop for the National Center for Transgender Equality’s annual Religious Summit and Policy Conference at All Souls Church, Unitarian. This year, for the first time, the Religious Summit is being held in conjunction with the organization’s lobby days in Washington, DC. Adam Gerhardstein from the UUA Office for Advocacy, Steven Baines of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and I spent the morning with about 20 brave and dedicated transgender religious leaders, their family members and friends discussing the basics of lobbying and the important impact that people of faith can have on public policy.

Conference participants also attended the church service on Sunday at All Souls, and it felt wonderful to work with this group of passionate leaders and to welcome them into the sanctuary that I am learning to call a spiritual home. I feel deeply blessed that my congregation truly strives to be a place for all souls who seek refuge there.

During Sunday afternoon’s keynote address at the conference, Kate Bornstein spoke of the pain that arises when people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, particularly transgender people, are not seen as legitimate members of their own religions because their lives and appearances do not seem to match up with traditional religious expectations. Kate has coped with this exclusion by continuing to do the work that is required of all Jews: performing mitzvahs. According to Kate, a mitzvah is an act that fulfills the Jewish commandment to do God’s work by selflessly helping others who are different from you.

In my experience, Unitarian Universalism welcomes me as a whole person and a “real” member not just despite, but because of my queerness. I have been blessed and lucky to encounter others who see my unique existence and perspectives as cherished and sacred. People in my religious community have never made me feel less or wrong because of who and what I love or desire. I am also deeply aware that many of my fellow humans have not experienced the same welcome. I feel an obligation, as a member of a religion that claims to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, to work towards the day when our Unitarian Universalist institutions and congregations truly reflect our radically inclusive and justice-seeking values. We have worked hard, but much remains to be done.

I’ll step down off of that soapbox for the moment.

Today, the 150 or so participants in the Religious Summit and Policy Conference combined lobbied on Capitol Hill sharing their personal histories, stories, and their conviction that everyone deserves full and equal protection under the law in their communities and workplaces. They are asking their members of Congress to support the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLHCPA) and the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Take action today, and add your voice to theirs.