HRC Finally Ready to Back Trans-Inclusive ENDA


Ladies and gentlemen, the Human Rights Campaign has found its balls! Or its soul. Or its voice. After promising its own donors and the gay community it would only back a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and then backtracking on its own guarantee, HRC’s board now says it will support only an ENDA measure that includes protections for transgender folks. Flip-flop-flip?

Back in 2007, when the U.S. Congress was seriously considering ENDA legislation, reps told HRC they didn’t have enough votes to pass a trans-inclusive ENDA. So, HRC now says, “we made a one-time exception to our policy in 2007 because we strongly believed that supporting this vote would do more to advance inclusive legislation.” But now that Democrats control both legislatures and the White House is inhabited by a man who supposed supports gay rights? “We will not support such a strategy again,” HRC says.

Huh. Because it was this time last year that HRC president Joe Solmonese was defending the organization’s decision — which it now seems to regret, or at least flip-flopped on — to back ENDA without trans protections. Speaking in front of a crowd at HRC’s annual dinner, Solmonese first had to get through a picket line of protesters, criticizing the world’s largest gay rights advocacy organization (their claim, not ours) for turning its back on the transgender community. And all the New York politicos usually in attendance at HRC events? Even the openly gay ones? They all, curiously, skipped this one.

“I understand and I hear every day that some members of our community are feeling forgotten or left behind. It is easy to understand why,” Solmonese said at the 1,000-person event, adding, “We have to overlook our differences and we have got to see instead of our individual wants and immediate desires — a vision for the America that we all want to live in.”

Already Solmonese has been forced to apologize for HRC backtracking the first time it said it would only support a trans-inclusive ENDA legislation. He blamed it on “misspeaking.”

HRC spokesperson Trevor Thomas tells the Washington Blade the just-issued statement is just “a reiteration of our current policy and should not be portrayed as new or a shift — this has always been our policy and is a clarification considering what happened in 2007.”

Sure it is. So long as HRC’s “policy” has always been to make promises, go back on them, and then try to keep those promises all along. We’re not saying HRC’s new — sorry, “reiterated” — policy is a bad one. It isn’t! They should be lauded for supporting a trans-inclusive ENDA.

But for all the frustrated HRC donors and on-lookers who don’t understand how or why the organization turned its back on the “T” in GLBT, this “clarification” does little to soothe their anger.

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  • Austin

    Is the headline supposed to read “Trans-Inclusive?” Or am I misunderstanding it?

  • spb

    UGH. Stop fucking the rest of us over trans people! Jesus fucking christ.

  • Alec

    Sorry, but there’s a differennce. Gay rights and trans rights are not the same, and there is no reason that legislation relating to sexual orientation needs to be inclusive of gender identity protection. It is equivalent to arguing that gender discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination are too similar to be divorced, which is clearly not true. Not as a matter of history or legislation, at any rate.

    Now, *should* ENDA include protections for the transgendered? I believe so, but at least admit that the arguments and issues are different. When it comes to the law, the transgendered occupy an entirely different plane of existece. Probably the most important issue for them is health care reform and insurance coverage for transition, although “gender identity” is a broad enough category to include people who have no intention of physical transition.

    Realistically, I think that the transgendered stand to benefit the most from this legislation. I mean, let’s face it: enough people are comfortable with gays that workplace discrimination is not a huge issue for us. With the transgendered it is pretty much the polar opposite; a huge issue, even where they enjoy equality as a matter of formal law in more jurisdictions than gays do (or at least, theoretically; the law in this area is very confusing, to say the least).

    More thought should be given to this strategy. I’m inclined to support an inclusive ENDA simply because I think it might be next to impossble for one to pass if it isn’t attached to sexual orientation legislation.

  • Duffman

    HRC gets way too much shit for their support of a non-inclusive ENDA. HRC needed something to show for its lobbying efforts, and a non-inclusive ENDA was that.

  • EchoMark

    @spb: “us”? You mean LGBT people? Or does LGB just have a nicer ring to it for you?

    Dear trans Queerty readers: Please ignore SPB’s sad, ignorant comment above. It is not representative of this site or its readers.

  • Brendan

    Seriously. Trans members of the community have been fighting alongside the L, G, and B since the beginning, so I don’t see why the rest of us should leave them high and dry now.

    Even if the plight of the homosexual is different than that of the transgender person, this is a HUMAN rights issue, so it shouldn’t matter.

  • Bill Perdue

    When the right wing tells HRC to ‘move it’ they leap to the right, pause, and ask “is that enough, sir.” When HRC senses there’s a leftward radicalization underway they’ll take a timid step left to see if it’s ok with their owners.

    Their testing of the waters is duly noted and duly dismissed. They’ve made statements like this before and then reversed themselves. Again, the battle led by Barney Frank to eviscerate ENDA is the best example. They’ll do it again because they represent the interests of the Democratic Party and front for them in the LGBT communities.

    They’ll never be leaders of our movements or communities because they represent the rich political insiders and movement hustlers who won’t work for equality unless they’re well paid to do so. Our first order of business is to create a leftwing LGBT leadership independent of the right wing Democrats and for the interests of working class GLBT folks.

  • atdleft

    @spb: So you’d rather have the straight white powers that be f*cking over all of us? Get a grip! Gay rights aren’t any less “controversial” than trans rights, so it makes NO sense to throw transgendered people under the bus for an incomplete ENDA. This is one reason I still refuse to give any $$$$ to those bastids @ HRC.

  • atdleft

    @Brendan: Thank you! Our community needs to support everyone in the community. Trans people deserve equal rights, too. And hey, it’s not like they ever abandoned our work for lesbian & gay rights.

  • Notafan

    How many times will we just let them get by with this kind of stuff?

    Beyond just the fires they have stoked with the trans community, they repeatedly will insert themselves haphazardly into state or local issues and then claim victory on their own. Gainsville is a perfect example of this. If you look at their “backstory” blog, you only have a sense of HRC – no reference to other organizations heavily involved in the effort like Equality Florida.

    Here’s another beef – They boast a staff of nearly 150 (at least as of a couple of years ago). They claim to have ID’s of over 600,000 and a budget of $60 Million –but look at the staff listing on their website:

    33 staff listed. Want to know why? Most of the rest of that staff are ALL FUNDRAISERS of some kind – event managers, major gift officers, annual appeal, Federal Club…..

    I know it takes a lot of money to run an organization especially on a national level, but come on – when will we stop just giving to this charade? They have not secured a single win at the federal level and are simply set to ride the coat tails of the current administration and then fundraise, fundraise, fundraise….

  • InExile

    I believe all people including trans-gender deserve equal rights. Having said that, this all or nothing attitude from HRC may land us with nothing……….again! We need to take whatever we can get as stepping stones to start the momentum for full equality. Most of our democrats will run when the T is inserted because the GOP will use it as a weapon against them. Most of our politicians are self serving and don’t care about the people in this country, they only care about their own careers!

  • Duffman

    @Notafan: HRC’s certainly not perfect, but your criticism is simply unfair. They faced a dead end at the White House for the past eight years so of course no significant pro-LGBT legislation emerged.

  • Notafan

    @Duffman: They have been in operation for 20+ years – so this goes back even before GWB. And does that give them the right to simply be a fundraising organization?

    Ask yourself how many times you actually see an HRC STAFF – not BOARD person involved in your local community rallying the troops. You usually see a fundraiser – a dinner,bowling event or a comedy night – hell our local group event did a FLORAL ARRANGING EVENT! Come on that’s pathetic. This is how we’re going to achieve equal treatment?

  • rogue dandelion

    so wait, catch me up, HRC through trans people under the bus in 2007 to get enda, and still didn’t get it?
    so they are unprincipled and incompetent?

  • kevin (not that one)

    What if lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders fought for a non-discrimination employment Federal policy and left gay men to fend for themselves?

    That would be interesting.

  • spb

    @Kevin (not that one): If the situation were that Congress was extremely unlikely to pass and ENDA that included gay men, but would easily pass one with lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders?

    Yes, of course I would support it, and so would most gay men. We would continue our fight, and when people realized that ENDA for LBT was successful and not the end of the world, it would help us win an ENDA for gay men.

  • ChristopherM


    This argument would be true if it weren’t for the fact that the non-inclusive ENDA has holes so big you could drive a truck through them. Most legal experts believe that without gender identity, any gay or lesbian person could be fired for anything that does not conform to gender norms.

    That said, I actually hate using the argument that a non-inclusive ENDA is bad for gay folks too because it implies that the only reason to support a fully-formed ENDA is to protect ourselves. Trans people have been working alongside us in this fight for years, and it would be unconscionable to sell them out for ourselves.

  • atdleft

    @kevin (not that one): Heh. Of course, this would mean I myself would still be open to discrimination. Still, maybe that would get some of the narrow-minded queens here to open their minds and realize discrimination against some of us allows for discrimination against ALL OF US.

  • atdleft

    @Notafan: I haven’t, not in Orange County. Now to be fair, I do have a sweet friend who’s on the HRC Board. I know his heart is in the right place, and he’s trying to work with all of us local groups (Courage Campaign, OC Equality Coalition, Stonewall Dems, etc.) on our response to whatever happens with the Prop H8 lawsuits.

    However, my experience with HRC national has pretty much been this. They don’t contribute much of anything to our community. Other than the “Decline to Sign” campaign to stop Prop H8 before it started (which didn’t work), I’ve never seen them in action here.

  • Jared

    Look, you take what you can get. If the path to equality needs to be taken in steps so be it. I don’t understand the people that want everything now. Seriously, you need to be realistic. Sometimes getting something is better than nothing, just don’t forget the ultimate goal.

  • InExile

    @ChristopherM: I must say again, The all or nothing mentality will give us just that….nothing! Do you honestly think the “majority” of democrats in our congrsss and senate at this moment will support ENDA with the T? Many of our democrats are centrists and will not risk their re-election to support it. If we make no “baby” steps, we will make no large steps, thus we will make no steps at all and we will be right where we have always been!

    Why has our community not done a march on Washington for equal rights for all? Not the new President, Congress, or Senate is going to do anything for us unless we force their hands to act. There is no silver platter coming our way with equal rights, it must be fought for! No one seems like they are interested in fighting for our equal rights so we must take what we get! We are making all of this too easy for Washington by being so passive. Unless we are in the mainstream media news cycle every night, we do not exist!

  • kevin (not that one)

    @InExile: Straight people have come a long way in their attitudes towards us, but I suspect even our “friends” see a queer as being a queer, no matter if they are gay or transgender.

    It’s not the straight community that’s kvetching over minor details. It’s people within the LGBT community.

    Internecine conflict is divisive and serves no one but our enemies. But it’s enlightening to realize that the cause of this conflict appears to be the adoption of values we proscribe to the anti-gay rights folks by some in the leadership of the Lesbian and Gay community, most recently the HRC.

  • Dennis

    What the hell is wrong with you people? Those of you calling for the ouster of the transgender community from ENDA are no better than the mormon dicks who are fighting to take marriage rights away from us all. We are in this together and unless we stand together we will fail at ever achieving equality.

    I stand by my transgendered brothers and sisters: I will fight for your rights as I fight for my own. You are not alone.

  • ChristopherM


    I understand that argument, but I don’t think that passing a law with no teeth is pointless. Aside from that, it sells people out. No one would even consider it if Barney Frank popped up and said, “People find lesbians less threatening because people don’t take women’s sexuality seriously, so we’re going to start with an ENDA that just protects lesbians but not gay men.” People would go BERSERK!

    You are dead-on regarding the need for a new march. And not just a march that is about merchandising and a bunch of fucking circuit parties either. I mean a real political march where people are pissed the hell off and demanding what is rightfully theirs.

  • ChristopherM


    Pardon me, I meant that passing a law with no teeth is pointless. I should probably be paying attention in class rather than chatting on Queerty! :)

  • Bill Perdue

    This question is not one of politics between the various components of the GLBT. The transphobia and delaying tactics used by Frank and HRC last year, and now parroted by a few rightwing transphobes are a cover for the real problem, which can be summed up as standing on the corner waiting for the bus to run over you… again.

    The best advice ever given for following politics is “Follow the money.”

    Forget political platforms and candidates promises. Follow the money and you’ll find the bus treads of betrayal.

    Who had an interest in raping ENDA? Who would have been hurt if ENDA was inclusive, if its massive expansion of the ability of people from all groups with a protected status to sue for redress became law? Part of the answer lies in the fact that the Chamber of Commerce and the NAM went berserk when ENDA was introduced. But with the Democrats in power they couldn’t call on the Republicans to stop it. So they called on Pelosi and Barney Frank on most Republicans and on bigoted Democrats, of whom there a not a few.

    Frank, acting for the Democrat majority, and with the support of HRC, accepted every amendment offered by the Republicans to eviscerate ENDA, including one that forbade the use of ENDA to undercut DOMA. That’s the precedent we have and it was set by HRC and the Democrats. It’ll weigh heavily in what ever bill comes up next.

    The point is that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and other minorities need an inclusive ENDA as much as transfolks do. Opposing an inclusive ENDA, for whatever right wing delusional reason is opposing your own equality.

    Some form of UnitedENDA, hopefully a grassroots form is going to have to be rebuilt and will have to put out the word that with a recession threatening to become a depression we need an inclusive ENDA and a tough hate crimes bill more than ever. And it’ll have to launch mass demonstrations to do what it takes to convince Congress that the social climate will reach the boiling point if they continue to fuck with us. And it’ll have to put out the word that we never forgot who our enemies are.

  • Phoenix (Not Amused By The New Layout)

    Wow, nice of HRC to finally grow a pair! I mean, wow, how noble and brave of them to finally back equal rights for everyone…when it’s safe.

  • Pragmatist

    @spb: Thanks for reinforcing the stereotype that gay men are selfish children. Really, thanks.

  • Captain Freedom

    The HRC is a spineless, worthless, pathetic, organization that stole $30M of our hard earned money, took it out of our communities, and dolled it out to their buddies in the Democratic Party who give them a nod and a wink at black tie affairs saying “we know you guys forgive us for not supporting equal rights.”

    Joe Solmonese should be publicly tarred and feathered. He is an embarrassment to LGBT (not LGB) equality. He is just as much an obstructionist as the do-nothing Democrats who believe we’re good for money but not good for giving equal rights to.

    I removed my membership from the HRC long ago and I think everyone else should do the same. In fact, I think the HRC wanted Prop 8 to pass so that millions more naive gays would give their money to them so they could brag about “what a great job we did” at NOT DOING SHIT!

    That’s right! On the night of the election HRC sent out a letter saying what a great night November 4th 2008 was for LGBT Americans because Democrats won more offices. WHO CARES? If the Dems aren’t doing shit for us then how is it a victory?

  • Captain Freedom

    @Dennis: Dennis, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. If gay and lesbian Americans forget about the struggles that our transgender brothers and sisters face than we don’t deserve our rights. We deserve to be a political outcast if we dare think for one second that we have the right to exclude them from full equality.

    I am absolutely disgusted by gay men and women who follow this hetero-normative political approach and quite frankly I think Barney Frank and the HRC are the two biggest obstructionists. Not the Republicans, not the religious fascists, no no no it is these two.

    If LGBT Americans TRULY seek equality, the first step is to shut down the HRC. They have failed us miserably and they need to be kicked out on their ass to the curb with full force!

  • John in CA

    We know what’s going to happen here. Same as what happened last year (and the year before that).

    – Obama announces ENDA support with big fanfare

    – The House votes to pass ENDA

    – Pelosi declares victory and goes home

    – Republicans in the Senate filibuster it

    – Reid declares he doesn’t have 60 votes

    – Kennedy tries to attach it to budget legislation to bypass the filibuster

    – Reid says no and enlists the conserva-dems to block such a move

    – Pelosi comes back to offer some token condolences to HRC

    – Obama says he’ll bring it back after the mid-terms

    And that, boys and girls, is how America… ummmm….”works.”

  • InExile

    @ChristopherM: Why is no march on Washington planned? We need to fight for rights and demand them, not wait for them! I would gladly fly back to the USA to attend a march on Washington. You see, I live in exile in France because our government provides no way for me to sponsor my partner of 14 years. So if I sound desperate for some (any) progress on the equal rights front, it is because I am at the end of my rope! I am tired of waiting when I know nothing is going to happen unless we ALL make it happen by protesting. If we are not in the news cycle, we do not exist!

  • Zoe Brain

    Forget that I believe ENDA is misconceived, that we need to get inserted with all the other groups in the Civil Rights Act 1964.

    Look at what HRC actually said. They will “only support” an inclusive ENDA. They say nothing about opposing an exclusive one, and this would be their position if one was before the House. Like it was last time, only then they made a “1-off” decision to support it under those circumstances.

    As they would do again?

    They still haven’t adjusted the ratings of the Congresscritters that voted against an exclusive ENDA because it was exclusive. Look at their actions, not their words. Because the latter are meaningless sounds.

  • Jonathan

    Yawn. Took the useless, money-grubbing, power-sucking scum bags long enough…

    Why won’t they just wither and die and let some competent folks lobby for us…? Whhhhhyyyy?

  • Gwen

    Action speak louder than words! At least that is what I was taught. HRC has a long reputation of talking the talk but not walking the walk. They are looking for support and financial donations again. They will say anything to get that support and funds. Once that is accomplished the HRC does whatever it feels is expedient for its own goals and everyone else be damned. Notice that Solmonese isn’t saying anything about the Hate Crimes bill. It is already being reported that the Hate Crimes bill is highly likely to be trans-exclusive by the time it comes before the national legislature for a vote.

    In regards to those who think ENDA and HRC should be trans-exclusive, I am reminded of the words I heard spoken by one of the march marshals at the 1993 March On Washington. He was asked by another march marshal why the transgender contingent was being removed from the march. (We were not allowed to finish the march and were turned away at the point the march returned to the Mall to pass the reviewing stand and all the television and other media reps.) The answer was, “We don’t want to confuse people about our purpose here.” Gee, how naive of me, I thought the purpose of the march was equality for everyone, not just the GLB folks.

    Ah well, only time will tell if the HRC has really evolved into an organization which lives up to its self-image and hype. Unfortunately, while I hope for the best, I expect the worse. As the old saying goes, “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

  • Zoe Brain

    my take –

  • David-Sarah Hopwood

    Here’s the HRC statement:

    Notice that it does not say that they will *oppose* a non-inclusive ENDA, which is what they originally promised in 2004.

    I’ll believe that the HRC has actually found its balls when I see them.

Comments are closed.