Friday, October 12, 2007

ENDA without transgender protection

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has become an interesting example of a common problem of two-party politics. While legislators are elected by and beholden to a base on one side of the spectrum, legislation that can actually pass must be close to the middle. By removing protection for transgender persons from ENDA, the authors hope that at least gay and lesbian persons could achieve Federal workplace protection. The re-write of the bill moved it more toward the achievable center at the expense of complete justice.

But the argument that we must not protect gay and lesbian persons until we can also protect transgender persons ignores the fact that the identification of oppressed groups and the gaining of their rights always comes in an evolutionary process. Complete justice is never an attainable goal because new groups of oppressed persons will forever emerge - some which exist now but are yet invisible, others which don't even exist yet. Justice achieved by one group actually creates the atmosphere by which justice can be achieved by the next group.

If gay and lesbian people were not actually suffering employment discrimination right now then we could afford to wait for the opportunity to help the next oppressed group in line. But gay and lesbian persons are suffering now. And when the culture is ready to protect our transgender citizens there will be yet another emerging oppressed class also asking for help.

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