John Aravosis of Americablog has posted a thoughtful piece regarding ENDA, the legislation that would outlaw job discrimination against gays and lesbians. I commend it to you (click on title above for full piece):
"There's a debate raging in the gay community over an upcoming vote on the most important piece of civil rights legislation to the gay community, ever. We are on the verge of passing, at the federal level, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would make it illegal for an employer to fire, not hire, no promote an otherwise qualified employee or job candidate simply because they're gay. Some are now arguing that if transgendered people are not included in ENDA, the gay community should not support its passage.
"Most Americans, including lots of people in the gay community, do not realize that under federal law it is LEGAL to fire someone for being gay. It is also legal in most states. Contrary to popular belief, "discrimination" is not illegal in America, and it's not illegal under the Constitution. It is only illegal (more or less) if your particular class is specified in legislation. If you read the existing civil rights act, you'll see it lists very specific categories that are covered (race, religion, national origin...). It is not a blanket protection against "discrimination." That is why ENDA is needed. And that is why ENDA is not "special rights" or extra rights being granted to gay people and not other Americans - we are not included under the current civil rights laws, and that's unfair. Currently it is legal to fire someone for being gay under federal law and in most states. Don't believe me? Look it up yourself."
My take on the subject? I see the answer to this debate in the knowledge that many people have come to accept gay and lesbian people as equal to themselves while most Americans are unaware of what a transgender person is and/or how that does or does not relate to homosexuality.
Our country has obviously reached critical mass in support of gays and lesbians while it is clearly not yet ready to accept gender identity as a class to protect. Amercans have not been exposed to nearly enough information nor have they been exposed to nearly enough transgender people to make an informed decision regarding their inclusion in ENDA. Meantime we have a good chance of protecting a substantial percentage of Americans from legal job discrimination.
The question is, Do we go forward to protect 10% to 20% of the American population or do we wait until we achieve critical mass in support of transgender people? My preference is that all sexual minorities be included in ENDA and I'm torn knowing that so many people will continue to be fired, not hired, or not promoted on the basis of sexual orientation if we insist on it.
After much consideration I support ENDA exclusive of gender identity while vowing to work very hard to help educate the American public and Congress regarding gender identity issues. A full 10-20% of Americans should not be asked to continue laboring in economic apartheid until the country is brought up to speed on gender identity when having gay and lesbian Americans treated with equality in the work place may have a beneficial effect on the issue. I say pass ENDA and get on with gender identity education in America.