Jill seems off the mark here:
There’s an ongoing debate in progressive and LGBT communities about whether or not Congress should pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Yes, that’s right: Unless you live in a state with very good anti-discrimination legislation, your employer can terminate you for the sole offense of being gay, lesbian or transgender. And there’s no federal law against it.
Bush will likely veto the bill, but it’s nonetheless an important step. Progressives, though, are divided over a revised version of the bill that omits gender identity from the protected classes. So, should ENDA pass, you can no longer be terminated from your job because you’re gay. But you can be terminated for being transgender, or for not conforming to a traditionally gendered appearance.
Pragmatism matters. But throwing an entire group of people under the bus because it’s politically expedient is not an option. And as Pam emphasizes, this bill is largely symbolic. If Democrats can’t even get it together for a bill that has no chance of becoming law, how are they going to get the job done when they actually have power?
I don’t think the fight for a non-transinclusive ENDA is hopeless. There’s a nonzero chance that Bush will sign into law the ENDA if it’s tacked onto some essential legislation like a defense appropriations bill, as was the strategy with the hates crimes amendment. The ENDA is massively popular, and I can imagine Bush not caring enough to pick a fight. I’m not saying this is the likeliest option, but it’s a real possibility.
Adding transgendered persons to the ENDA is obviously a good idea on policy grounds. But the plain fact of the matter is that acceptance of gays and lesbians has come much further than the acceptance of transgendered persons. It’s awful, but it’s true. Tacking on transgendered rights could alienate conservative Democrats and center-right Republicans who might vote for a sexual orientation-only ENDA, and would give Bush more of a leg to stand on in the public eye if he picked a fight over the matter. Again, it’s disgusting, but it’s something we have to deal with, and for the time being non-discimination rights for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals is better than nothing. Far from perfect, but better than nothing.