I have written before that while I disagree vehemently with many if not all of his policy positions (and personal choices), I find US Rep. Barney Frank one of the most intelligent, honest and sincere Members of Congress — and probably the only one with a “D” by his name.
For those of you following the battle over passage of a employment non-discrimination bill, you know that there is a severe split within the GLBT community over whether to include “transgendered” in the legislation. The Human Rights Campaign has made their choice — purity over progress — and announced it in a strangely worded (nearly in code) email last week. Of which I tried to savage with my endless wit and intellect.
Our co-blogger, Average Gay Joe, has chaired a very vigorous debate on the subject in his post from Tuesday, “About That ‘T’ in GLBT“.
Nearly two-thirds of all American adults (64%) believe it is unfair that federal law currently allows for an employer to fire someone because they are gay or lesbian. A similar majority (60%) of heterosexual adults were not even aware that federal law does not provide protections for employees on the basis of sexual orientation. An overwhelming majority (79%) of heterosexuals also feel that how an employee does his or her job, and not their sexual orientation, should be the standard for judging an employee.
But as is typical of the Democrat Party as a whole, one small faction of the GLBT community and of the liberal collective is set to doom decades of progress for the majority of us. The time is now to put up or shut up and our gay leaders are choosing defeat on the backs of working gays and lesbians across the USA.
I talk a lot to gay people, gay men and lesbians. I find the view that we should not do anything until we can do everything very much in the minority. I understand the passion of those who are in organizational positions. But, you know, we talk about politics here. There are politics in organizations too. There are people who I have privately discussed this with who have said, yes, we wish you would go ahead, but I can’t say that. I can’t stand up against this organizational consensus.
Well, idealism by itself is going to be pretty fruitless, and idealism that is empowered by pragmatism is the way in which we make progress, and that is what we are called upon to do here. And so I am asking my colleagues, Democratic and Republican because there is bipartisan support for this, please do not be dissuaded by those who say do nothing until you can do everything. Look at the history of civil rights. Look at the fact that we helped one group here, we dealt with a certain form of discrimination there.
I do not believe that the majority of gay men and lesbians in this country want to take the position that nothing shall be done to enhance legal protection against the prejudice from which they suffer until we can do the job perfectly. I also believe that from the standpoint of including people who are transgender, for which I have and will continue to work, we will not accomplish that nearly as quickly. Maybe in 50 years it will all get done. I’ll be dead; so tell me anything. I won’t be able to argue with you. But in the interim, we will get there much more quickly if we continue to follow the sensible strategy of working with allies, of accepting support that is overwhelming but not complete, of understanding political reality, of moving forward, of alleviating some fears by taking some partial steps. We are a lot likelier to get there. So we have two choices today: we can say until we are able to do everything, we are going to abandon this effort; and I believe the consequences of that will be profoundly negative for any effort to revive this. Or, we can take one of the biggest steps forward in the anti-discrimination march, in the march to make the American Constitution’s wonderful principles fully applicable with everybody, we can take a major step forward on that issue. And having done that, we will be, in my judgment, better able to take the next step. That is the choice. And I hope, both for the substance, and for giving people a lesson in responsible governance in defense and in advancement of our values, my colleagues, especially on this side, but in the whole House, will opt for sensible and real progress that serves the interests of the majority and rejects the counsel of those who say that, absent perfection, we should leave everything as it was.
Rep. Frank truly “gets it” and his vision and pragmatism would be good gifts for our gay rights leaders to receive as they begin to lick their wounds after yet another lost fight — this one: ENDA. Come to think of it has there even been an actual gay rights victory since 1969?