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Today the House Education and Labor Committee, Chaired by Rep. George Miller, began hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 – a bill that would amend federal employment discrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections.  Various forms of this bill have been introduced into Congress in prior years, but it has a better chance of passing this year due to White House support and a democratically-controlled Congress.  Nan Hunter’s blog, Hunter of Justice, has a nice description of the bill.

If you’re interested in this issue, you ought to read the bill, weigh in on the incrementalist machinations about whether it is more prudent to omit “gender identity”  from the bill this year, assess your position on the exemptions the bill contains that mute it’s potential reach, and call your elected members of Congress to vote for the bill etc.

But before you do any of that you need to watch Barney Frank’s testimony to the Committee today as lead off witness.  It choked me up.   He did not have formal remarks prepared by his staff that he read woodenly into the record (as did Committee Chair Wilson in a tone that sounded not like he was launching hearings on an important civil rights bill, but like he was reading the insert in a bottle of Advil).  Barney Frank spoke from the heart and it was stirring.

I can understand that for some people the concept [of transgendered people in the workplace] is new…  but let me just say to my colleagues:  There’s nothing to be afraid of.  These are our fellow human beings.  They are not asking for anything other, in this bill, than the right to earn a living.  Can’t you give them that?  If you don’t like them, if you don’t want to be friends, I think you’re missing out on something, but that’s your choice.  But how can we as people who make the laws in this wonderful country under our great constitution say to one small group of our fellow citizens: “You know there’s something about you that some people don’t like.  So you are not eligible for work.  You can be fired.  You can’t get a promotion.”  I cannot understand why anybody would want to say that to a group of our fellow citizens.   And that’s all that this bill does.

Watch it.  You can, should, skip the boring introductions, just watch Barney Frank – six and a half minutes of instruction of how to convince your homophobic or transphobic uncle about the rightness of this cause.

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2 comments

  1. I just about choked on my water when I read the title of this post: very funny.

    that said, it’s a great post. thanks for it.

    -arvan

  2. Thank you Barney Frank.

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