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Student website editorial: Excluding transgenders shouldn't stop gay bill

BY NIKI PAYNE, Cal State Long Beach Daily 49er

Two weeks ago, a committee vote on a federal piece of legislation to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from workplace discrimination was postponed until this week due to a withdrawal of support from more than 270 gay-rights organizations.

This comes as quite a shock considering they have been fighting for nearly three decades (and then some) to reach the ultimate goal of social equality.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, proposed earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., would make it a criminal offense for employers to "make decisions about hiring, firing, promoting, or paying an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity."

Just when the Democrats thought they would be making history by passing the nation's first job discrimination law to specifically include gays and lesbians, all hell broke loose. The LGBT community was told that there would not be enough votes to win passage in the House of Representatives if transgender people were included.

Apparently, the Democrats had taken a vote and learned that the bill would fail unless they substituted it for a "scaled-back" version dropping transgender people from the language.

A separate bill would be drafted to protect them, but that doesn't mean it would pass just because it's a separate bill. The transgender issue is still pretty fresh, especially with increased surgical advances making it possible for a man or woman to undergo sex changes. It took this long to gain acceptance of homosexuality enough to consider a rights law. It might take just as long to eliminate discrimination against transgender people, as well.

It's like Frank said in a recent article with the Associated Press, "These things take a while."

Clearly, the exclusion of

people who are transgender has really rocked the House, igniting much debate over the issue among gays around the country, and, in some cases, even dividing their own community, as questions arise over how much in common transgender people have with gays and lesbians.

Some gays and lesbians may not mind excluding transgender people because they can't exactly relate to them. Besides, they aren't the ones having issues with their gender identity. In a sense, such mixed feelings over a biased bill are creating discrimination within their own community and among their own special interest groups.

On the other hand, it is so very noble of other gay-rights organizations to withdraw consent because of their "leave no man behind" mentality, or in this case, "leave no transgender behind."

"We'd rather have the bill fail than leave anyone behind," said one activist in a recent article with the Seattle Times.

But at the same time, is that really wise? Are activists and gay-rights organizations really being smart about their decision to work against a bill that is symbolic of the progression America has made in terms of finally accepting homosexuality?

If you ask me, it's completely irrational to have that all-or-nothing attitude, especially because a landmark decision such as this would make American history.

To have such a bill pass, as "scaled-back" as it may be, would be cause for celebration considering how long-awaited this has been by the gay community.

So what? Transgender people aren't included in the measure. Discrimination will still prevail regardless of what laws are enacted. It's human nature. We all have bias of some type, against something or someone that is not the same as us.

I just think this all-or-nothing mentality is completely bogus. Let's discriminate against the gays, not for their sexual orientation, but for not using their brains. Given the history of the LGBT community, you'd think it'd be a no-brainer.

It's self-defeating not to do anything (while you still can, ahem) until you can do everything. Is it really wise to fight for everything they want? Wouldn't they be better off just compromising and accepting the fact progress is being made? You can always keep fighting, can't you?

It's like Frank said, "We can say, until we are able to do everything we are going to abandon this effort or we can take one of the biggest steps forward in the anti-discrimination march."

So it might take another 30 years or so to start accepting transgenders. Big deal. It's either that or gays and lesbians can suffer through more discrimination for the next 30 years until they get what they want - all or nothing.

With big issues such as this, you really have to learn how to pick your battles and realize you can't win them all.

Niki Payne is a senior journalism major and a contributing writer for the Daily Forty-Niner.

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Should it come as a shock if 270 gay rights organizations are principled, and did the right thing? I think not, and as a transgender woman who has been fighting for just as long as my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, for the same rights- our rights, I applaud them.

I was devastated by Barney Frank's reasoning, and will never again have the same respect for him as I once did.

Mr. Frank, I am sure that you will eventually regret your decision. You were, frankly, misguided, and could not have been more wrong. Time will show this to be true. It's too bad you will never be able to erase the damage you have caused.

Cara Capella
Sedona, AZ

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