Friday, November 9, 2007

Seven Deadly Sins: Republican Deceit on the ENDA Debate in the House

My review of the Congressional Record for the ENDA debate in the House of Representatives gave me some insights into the weakness of will and the dearth of moral courage in my Democratic friends, though I do see a glimmer of hope for the future of human rights for my people (see the immediately previous blog entry).

On the Dark Side of the aisle in the House, the Republican conservative opposition to ENDA and to trans-inclusion appears from the statements made in the Congressional Record to be based on seven viewpoints that I will call the "seven deadly sins:"

  1. The Sin of Willful Ignorance. They appear to exhinit a lack of understanding of the tenets of Christianity – they erroneously seem to think that that all Christians perceive homosexuality as sinful, and that the beliefs of their own erronneous Christianist (not Christain at all) should be imposed on the nation in a Christianist form of Shariah – in which their form of religion is also the basis for the civil law;
  2. The Sin of Superiority of the Master. They see Religious Freedom as the religious freedom of a Christianist employer counting for more than the religious freedom or other rights, liberties and freedoms of the employees;
  3. The Sin of Superiority of Christianist belief. They see Religious Freedom as the right of a Christianist employee to outweigh the religious freedom or other rights, liberties and freedoms of other employees and trumps an employer’s reasonable requirements for respect and tolerance in the workplace;
  4. The Sin of Superiority of the Heterosexual. They insist that married heterosexual employees should be entitled to more and better employment benefits than employees who are prevented by government interference with the free exercise of their religion, from getting married;
  5. The Sin of Babel. They exhibit a curious lack of understanding of the English language commeasurate with their lack of understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ, in their babbling about the word "perceived."
  6. The Sin of Mischaracterization. They characterize the religious and other rights of other people as "sexual rights" and do not recognize the fact that "sexual rights" are actually not exercised in the workplace but rather in the bedroom; and
  7. The Sin of Denial of Equality. They think a federal ENDA would be evidence in favor of equal marriage rights, which they oppose – they want to continue to favor special rights for heterosexuals.

So, let’s get down to a discussion of some of what these people said on the floor of the House, and I will comment on each:

1. A lack of understanding of the tenets of Christianity – they erroneously seem to think that that all Christians perceive homosexuality as sinful, and that the beliefs of Christianists should be imposed on the nation in a Christianist form of Shariah – in which their form of religion is also the basis for the civil law.

Rep. Souder: "The question is, can you as a Christian express your views and not be persecuted? That, yes, in a sense it is at least a plurality of Americans profess Christianity, a smaller percent conservative Christianity, but we are moving so far as to restrict the rights in the workplace of Christians' even ability to hold or say anything about their views. People can't even have Bible studies in some places it has been ruled because that would be offensive to homosexuals in the workplace based on this law in some cities and have been upheld in the court."

My response: The Christian who believes homosexuality is sinful has every right to not engage in homosexual activity. That Christian is protected in his or her private beliefs. But the protection of religious freedom should be seen as a shield and not a sword. One’s constitutional right to a prejudiced and bigoted "religious" belief that homosexuality is sinful should be protected. But to act on that belief in an aggressive way that can be harmful to others whose religious beliefs are different should not be protected.

The right to impose that bigoted and prejudiced "religious" belief in the workplace, in the face of general secular principles of fairness, equality and justice, should not be permitted under the law. It would be the same thing as permitting the teaching of the erroneous literalist flat-earther six-day Creation in lieu of the science related to the development of the Universe, in public-funded or licensed schools

It is one thing to have a Bible in the office to read during lunchtime, and quite another to put up a large poster in a prominent location in the workplace proclaiming the text of Leviticus 18:22 or 20:13 in an attempt to intimidate gay co-workers or employees.


2. Religious Freedom, where the freedom of a Christianist employer counts for more than the religious freedom of the employees – but should the religious freedom of the employer count for more than the religious freedom of the employee?

Rep. Souder: "Under this bill, they will be forced to hire homosexuals regardless of the personal views of Christian bookstores."

My response: The personal views of Christian bookstores, or rather, the owners of Christian bookstores, have nothing to do with the jobs of stocking bookshelves, doing bookkeeping, or any of a host of other jobs. None of these jobs have anything to do with whether the employee is gay or is perceived to be gay while not actually being gay. The religious freedom of the owner of the store should not be allowed to trump the religious freedom of the employee. To imply that the employer’s religious belief is superior to that of the employee means that the playing field is not level, and that there is no equal employment opportunity, thus belying any assertion that this is really an issue involving religious freedom, but rather the imposition of a Christianist Shariah.


3. That the religious beliefs of Christianist employees are superior to the religious beliefs of other employees, and that Christianist employees should be exempt from an employer’s requirement that all employees treat other employees and customers with dignity and respect.

Rep. Souder: "AT&T employee in Denver fired for refusing to sign company-required pledge to recognize, respect and value sexual orientation differences within the company. In January 2001, an employee of AT&T was required to sign a new AT&T Broadband Employee Handbook with policies that conflicted with his religious beliefs by condoning the homosexual lifestyle. After notifying his supervisor that based on his religious belief he could not sign the certificate of understanding, he was fired."

Rep. Souder: "At Hewlett Packard's plant in Boise, Idaho, an employee with a 21-year record of meeting or exceeding expectations was fired for refusing to remove Bible verses about homosexuality from his cubicle. The employee allegedly posted the Bible verses in response to a poster near his cubicle that he perceived to be promoting GLBT relationships. HP openly admitted that its reasoning for firing the employee was ``his overt opposition to HP's Diversity Advertising Campaign.''

My comment: Rep. Souder apparently does not understand, or chooses to ignore, the difference between having a constitutionally protected right to a private religious belief and the right to impose that private religious belief on others. If an employer or employee’s personal religious beliefs require that they disrespect the religious beliefs of others in the workplace, then the disrespecting employer should not be in business, and the disrespecting employee should not be employed. In Rep. Souder’s example, the AT&T employee had every right to believe homosexuality to be sinful, and the employer has every right to expect that the employee will be respectful of persons in the company, or customers, whose religious beliefs are different. There is nothing in the Record that indicates that AT&T was obliging the employee to believe that homosexual behavior is not sinful, but only to respect the beliefs of others that it is not sinful.

In Rep. Souder's Hewlett-Packard example, he seems to equate the posting of threats to free speech. The freedom of speech, even religious speech, in the workplace, is not untrammelled - and no one should be allowed to use Bible verses to threaten others.

Rep. Blunt of Missouri: "Madam Chairman, the tension this bill could create is not difficult to foresee in practice. For instance, if you chose to keep a Bible at your work station or perhaps even display in your cubicle a verse you found particularly meaningful, the legal question is simple created by this legislation: Can one or more of your coworkers seeing that passage, seeing that Bible, understanding there are passages there about homosexuality, bring suit against you and your employer on the grounds that mere presence of religious symbols constitutes a ``hostile workplace'' in which they are being forced to work?"

My comment: Rep. Blunt’s understanding of religious freedom is certainly strange, but similar to Rep. Sopuder's. If the employee’s "meaningful" verse is one that assaults the religious belief of another employee – let's use a "non-gay" example such as Exodus 22:18 "Do not suffer a witch to live" when the employee knows that this is intimidating to a fellow employee who is a practitioner of Wicca, that should certainly be prohibited in the workplace! It doesn’t mean that the Christianist employee can’t have the freedom to believe that witches should be stoned to death, but the taking of action that can be seen as a threat to stone a fellow employee or disrespect her freedom of religious belief should be legally prohibited.

Rep. Pence from Indiana: " Some examples: Under ENDA, employees around the country who possess religious beliefs that are opposed to homosexual behavior would be forced, in effect, to lay down their rights and convictions at the door. For example, if an employee keeps a Bible in his or her cubicle, if an employee displays a Bible verse on their desk, that employee could be claimed by a homosexual colleague to be creating a hostile work environment because the homosexual employee objects to passages in the Bible relating to homosexuality."

My response: Rep. Pence doesn't understand. The employee doesn't have to lay his religious beliefs at the door - but he should be required to be respectful of the different beliefs of others. Just because the employee believes something that isn't true, doesn't turn that belief into the Truth. That same Bible that Rep. Pence does nopt seem to be able to read and understand has the positive gay images in the Book of Ruth and the relationship between David and Jonathan as reported in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. Example: "I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." 2 Samuel 1:26.

Indeed, I wonder what Rep. Pence would have to say about Isaiah 56, Mt. 19:12 and Acts 8:35-end, all of which make it clear that God loves and accepts transgender people (for more detail, see the oldest blog here, from October 2007). I wonder why he and his colleagues are not co-sponsoring H.R. 3686, which would outlaw discrimination against people based on gender stereotyping. The reason is that they do not understand the Good News and instead use the Holy Bible as is it was just so much scrap paper in which they wrap their cissexism, cisgenderism, transphoboa, homophobia, and other prejudices.

Why should my religious beliefs, which are actually supported by a reasonable interpretation of the Bible, be subordinated to Rep. Pence’s, which are only supported by his twisted interpretation? And Rep. Pence started out his comments so nicely: "Let me be clear. I don't condone discrimination against people for any reason whatsoever. I believe in civility and decency in society" – and then he proceeds to elevate his religious beliefs over mine and anyone else’s for protection.


4. That married heterosexual employees should be entitled to more and better employment benefits than employees who are prevented by government interference with the free exercise of religion, from getting married.

Rep Souder: "In Portland, Maine, city officials canceled a $60,000 grant for a Salvation Army meals-on-wheels program for senior citizens. Why? As a Christian denomination, the Salvation Army won't provide marital benefits to homosexual employees, thus running afoul of the city's ``sexual orientation'' law. When the Portland's ``sexual orientation'' ordinance was introduced, proponents argued, as they do often today, that it would merely ensure that ``people won't be fired for being ``gay.''

My comment: Government money should never be used to support faith-based discrimination when it intersects with equal employment opportunity and fair employment practices. It is one thing for the Salvation Army, which is a church, to engage in legally exempt faith-based employment discrimination, and quite another for taxpayer dollars to be used to support that discrimination. Unfortunately, the Republican conservatives and the Bush Administration do support faith-based bigotry. This is very sad.


5. Their lack of understanding of the word "perceived."

Rep. Souder: "I offered an amendment in committee that was unanimously opposed by the Democrats in committee to eliminate the word ``perceived.'' This is a legal nightmare."
Mr. KLINE of Minnesota: "This bill, and I quote, ``prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual because of an individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation.'' What does that mean, ``perceived sexual orientation''? We do not know because the bill fails to provide a definition. This raises a number of practical and legal concerns. The term ``perceived'' is overly broad, vague, and will inevitably lead to increased litigation, lots of increased litigation

My comment: Rep. Souder wasn't the only befuddled Republican Representative blathering about how he doesn't understand the English language. It’s really simple – in the sense of "actual or perceived," if you fire someone for being a member of the protected class and the individual really isn’t a member of the class, it’s still against the law. It should be no defense that the man you fired for being gay because he speaks with a lisp (the perception) actually turns out to be heterosexual. All the negative bleating in the debate about the word "perceived" was for the purpose of protecting employers from liability for firing straight people who look gay to the employer. What a world! These people would not want to protect a straight person who was fired because he was perceived by an employer to be gay. Shame on them!


6. They characterize religious rights of others as "sexual rights" and do not recognize anyone else’s religious rights than their own.

Rep Souder: "One prominent attorney says that basically religious rights have to be trumped by sexual rights in the workplace, and that's the goal of this act, and that this gives religious rights a secondary status in our society to sexual rights.

Rep Wahlberg: "ENDA is a fundamental departure from the longstanding principles of religious liberty as well, principles our country was founded upon. In fact, this will directly discriminate against people of traditional values and long-held faith principles. Rather than reducing discrimination, this legislation will instead reduce religious freedom and increase litigation."

Rep. Souder, again: "But I have heard my religion and my religious belief called prejudiced, bigoted, hate-filled, that the predominant religions in America have had their basic beliefs, those who believe in a literal Bible, have seen their faith smeared today on this House floor, and I am very disappointed in much of the tone. I understand the passion. I understand why people who have a homosexual life-style feel they have been discriminated against, but this is a classic question in our country. If, in fact, nobody could get a job, we would be facing a different challenge today. I openly admit that. But the challenge here is do people who have deeply held religious convictions based on the fundamental text of their faith have the right to practice their faith, too, or are they going to be trumped? This amendment is a step, but it's only a step."

My Comment: Rep. Souder’s religious beliefs certainly are erroneous, mistaken, heretical, prejudiced, bigoted, and hate-filled – and he is constitutionally protected in having those beliefs, and his exercise of religion is protected so that he cannot be forced to engage in homosexual sexual activity against his beliefs. On the other hand, he should not be entitled to impose those religious beliefs in the workplace as a form of Christianist Shariah on his employees, to hire and fire in a secular workplace outside the church itself – and that should include schools that are not schools of theology, or Sunday Schools, or yeshivas devoted solely to religious training.

The law can and should impose equal employment opportunity rights in the workplace with only the narrowest exemption for religious institutions – one protected area could be for teachers of religion or theology, even in a school in which other curriculum is taught – but limited only to the teaching of the religion. An art teacher, or a history teacher, or a science teacher, who does not teach religion should be covered under the law. As it is, we already have a problem with Christianist teachers who believe that teaching science in biology class conflicts with their devout beliefs – these are people who should not be teaching in the classroom, as they cannot separate their religion and faith, from science and reason.

Rep. Gohmert of Texas said: " What this Congress is now attempting to dictate is which religious beliefs and moral beliefs the majority believes are okay and which religious beliefs it feels are not okay. This will actually encourage people, whether they are gay or not, to flaunt or manifest what may be perceived to be characterizations to help the lawyers."

My comment: Rep. Gohmert seems to be in some Orwellian Newspeak Bizarro zone. He and his colleagues in the religious conservative faction are themselves the ones who want to dictate which religious and moral beliefs are okay!

What this sadly weak and ineffective version of ENDA does, at least for sexual orientation, is to say that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has no place in the workplace. No one is suggesting that heterosexual Christianist employers or employees be forced to engage in homosexual activity against their moral beliefs. However, they should not be allowed to use those moral beliefs in the workplace as an excuse to discriminate against people whose religious and moral beliefs are not the same as theisr – this is not "religion" against "sex." This is conservative religionists who do not understand enough of the English language to know what "perceived means’ or to understand the positive references to gay people and transgender people in the very Bible that they like to thump on the podium!


7. They think a federal ENDA would be evidence in favor of equal marriage rights, which they oppose – they want to continue to favor special rights for heterosexuals.

Mr. PITTS. "Madam Chairman, I rise in opposition to this ENDA bill. This bill, if signed into law, will have serious long-term implications on one of our most basic and treasured institutions, marriage. A Federal ENDA will provide activist judges with the legal ammunition to move toward the legalization of same-sex marriage. In fact, State ENDA laws are already being used by activist judges to impose gay marriage and civil unions on States." and "One example is the landmark decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court which determined that there was ``no rational basis for the denial of marriage to same-sex couples.''

My comment: Rep. Pitts should really read Justice Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the learned jurist opines that the majority decision in that case will lead inexorably to equal marriage rights. And the Massachusetts Supreme Court was entirely correct in determining that there is no rational basis for the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Opposition to marriage equality is not rational – and that is true, unlike the adamant belief in a literal biblical six-day creation, which, while constitutionally protected, is not at all a rational belief in the face of scientific fact. Faith does not equate to Reason.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court, unlike the New York Court of Appeals, actually understands the Constitution, and the principles of equality and justice that should apply to all of us, not just the Patriarchal Christianist Cissexist homophobic majority.

My people hunger and thirst for justice, and justice is denied to us. How long must we wait?

I pray that God may soften the hearts of those Republican congressmembers whose hardness of heart and erroneous beliefs cause them to oppose fairness, equality and justice for my people.

May they, like St. Paul on his way to Damascus, see the light, and recopgnize the error of their ways.

May they be granted the wisdom and understanding to do the right thing.

May they see their error and repent in time, before they are Judged and found wanting.

May they never have to be numbered among the goats.

For if they do not repent, if they leave my people hungering and thirsting for justice, then they will be numbered among the goats; and when my people and I are resting in the bosom of Father Abraham, and they have been condemned and are suffering the thirst and hunger in the eternal fire, that they realize that they are there, an immeasurable gulf between us, and that we cannot save them, who have not taken in life the steps necessary to save themselves in God's grace.

The Democratic Side on the ENDA Debacle in the House

A review of the November 7, 2007 debate in the House of Representatives on H. Res. 793 to set up the rules for debate on H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, leads me to the following conclusions regarding the Democrats in the House (Republicans will be covered in a separate blog entry):

The carefully choreographed rule was designed to limit debate and to allow the introduction, brief discussion and withdrawal of the Baldwin Amendment to restore the protection for "gender identity" that had been stripped from the bill while it, or rather its predecessor, H.R. 2015, was in committee. This was a Kabuki-like dance of words designed only to bring the idea of protecting transgendered people from employment discrimination onto the floor of the House without permitting adequate timne for real debate, and no time at all for a vote.

As a result, there are perhaps only seven Democrats I can really count on for support, because they voted against the flawed bill on principle because it does almost nothing for anyone. They are: Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). I applaud their principled stand, while not condemning the principled stand taken by those other Democrats in the House who voted in favor of the flawed bill because they would not vote against any bill to extend civil rights to even part of an oppressed minority. Some of them expressed as much in their remarks on the House floor and some inserted their remarks into the Congressional Record. I can respect that position.

I am appalled by the lack of moral fiber on the part of the House leadership that arranged this piece of choreographed theater without giving the Baldwin Amendment a chance at a vote. I do not blame Rep. Tammy Baldwin, because I believe the only opportunity the leadership gave her when the rule for debate was crafted, was to permit the introduction of the Amendment on condition that it be withdrawn prior to a vote. It was reported that this became the Speaker’s strategy because a couple of conservative Democratic first-term Representatives went to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to ask that there not be a vote. Rep. Baldwin would not have had the opportunity to introduce the Amendment without agreeing to ask for a withdrawal. I believe the failure to allow a vote was a serious tactical error, as bad an error as dropping the "gender identity" prpotection and watering down the "religious" loophole.

I am encouraged by the statements of Rep. Castor (D-FL), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep Welch (D-VT), Rep. Davis (D-CA), Rep. Moran (D-VA), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Langevin (D-RI), Rep. Stark ( ), Rep. Honda ( ), Rep. DeGette ( ), Rep. Waxman ( ), and Rep. Hirono ( ) (I plan to revisit this to get the states and fuller names for the imcomplete representatives).

Here are some of their trans-positive remarks, for those who wish to read but don;t want to poke around the Congressional Record:

Rep. Castor (D-FL): I do wish Ms. Baldwin would allow a vote on the amendment . I strongly support the amendment , as many of those in the Congress do. But this was her request, and this is the way the rule has been structured.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): The Baldwin amendment , which recognizes that transgendered Americans should have all of the protections and the rights of any person in America, should be included in this bill. It should include the Baldwin amendment . Because if we believe in who we are as a country, and if we believe that discrimination is wrong against anyone, then how in the world can we leave out a significant number of Americans in this bill? So, if it becomes law, transgendered Americans will still face discrimination in the workplace. And we must not let up until we ban discrimination against everyone.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY): While I may disagree with some of my colleagues on strategy, I assure you that we are united in support of the ultimate goal, protection from employment discrimination for the entire LGBT community. . . . Transgender Americans, because of a lack of familiarity and understanding, are more likely to face employment discrimination and, therefore, more in need of protection from irrational discrimination that an inclusive ENDA would afford. And removing gender identity from ENDA may also leave lesbian and gay employees vulnerable to discrimination for failing to conform to gender stereotypes. In other words, some employers and courts may take an overly restrictive view that an exclusive ENDA fails to protect lesbians who appear ``too masculine'' or gay men who appear ``too effeminate.'' . . . . When the House considers ENDA today, I will support the amendment introduced by Congresswoman Baldwin to restore the protections from discrimination based on gender identity. Should that amendment fail, I will not be able to vote for the underlying bill because it fails to uphold adequately the American values of fairness, equality and inclusion, but I will continue to fight for a proper ENDA bill that includes all the people who need its help.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH): I am very concerned, as my Republican colleagues are, that the Baldwin amendment can be offered and pulled back without a vote, because if it was given a vote, I would vote for the Baldwin amendment.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY): I rise in strong support of the underlying bill and the Baldwin amendment. . . . I strongly support providing protection from discrimination to transgender Americans, and I will not rest until their right to live their lives free of fear, discrimination, and intolerance is the law of this land.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ): Mr. Speaker, as a strong supporter of inclusive ENDA that provides employment protections for sexual orientation as well as gender identity, I am an original cosponsor of the original ENDA that was introduced earlier this year, the legislation we should be taking up today.

(Rep. Holt also added to the Congressional Record a letter from himself, Rep. Yvette Clark, Rep. Linda Sanchez, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, dissenting from H.R. 3685, though only two of them (Reps. Holt and Clark) actually voted against the flawed bill.)

Rep Welch (D-VT): "I am glad that the rule makes in order the amendment by Representative Baldwin to include ``gender identity'' protections in the bill. I urge all my colleagues to support the rule, support the Baldwin amendment , and support the underlying bill."

Rep. Davis (D-CA): I rise in support, but I am sorry we are not debating a more inclusive gender identity bill today, which I would have supported, and let me tell you why. Employment discrimination strikes at a fundamental American value, the right of each individual to do his or her job without facing unfair discrimination. Transgendered people are among the most marginalized and vulnerable groups within the LGBT community.

Rep Moran (D-VA): As a sponsor of ENDA, I would have favored the further amendment by Congresswoman Baldwin , but the fact is that this is a civil rights struggle, and struggles take time.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): While ENDA's victory will represent an historic victory, I share the disappointment of TAMMY BALDWIN , BARNEY FRANK and others who support including protection for transgender individuals in ENDA.

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA): . . . at the outset, I'd like to note that I did not vote for this bill in Committee, not because I don't support its goals--I do--but because I strongly believe that we could have done better by protecting more people from discrimination. That is why I am proud to support the amendment by my colleague from Wisconsin, that will add a prohibition against gender identity discrimination. This amendment is needed because protecting transgender people is the right thing to do. We're talking about a small group of people, but a group that faces tremendous discrimination and that deserves to be protected from workplace discrimination just as much as anybody else. Now that this bill is out of committee and on the floor, let me be clear, I will vote for it because it extends a basic right to millions of Americans. And that right is the right to go to work and earn a living.

Rep. Langevin (D-RI): I also want to voice my strong support for an amendment to be offered by the gentlewoman from Wisconsin, Ms. Baldwin , which would prevent discrimination based on gender identity. Rhode Island is one of 12 States that protect gender identity in employment, and our experience has been a positive one. Transgender individuals often have their own set of challenges in the workplace, and we must ensure that their rights are protected as well. I am deeply disappointed that the underlying bill does not include gender identity, especially as I am a cosponsor of a fully inclusive ENDA.

Rep. Stark ( ): No job applicant should be discriminated against because of his or her race, religion, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, political affiliation--or sexual orientation or gender identity. . . . This legislation succeeds in advancing civil rights. However, it still falls short of what needs to be accomplished. By no means is this bill as inclusive as it should be. It fails to include gender identity as a protected class. I commend Congresswoman BALDWIN for her efforts to include the transgender community in today's legislation. Had her amendment reached a vote on the House floor, I would have proudly supported it.

Rep Honda ( ): Sadly, more inclusive language was narrowed to exclude the most vulnerable, least understood group within the LGBT community, transgender men and women. I congratulate Representative BALDWIN on offering an amendment to re-insert this wording into the underlying bill and I proudly support her effort. Although this amendment was withdrawn, I was prepared to vote in its favor.

Rep. DeGette ( ): I will cast my vote with deep regret the trangendered community has been denied the protections offered to gays and lesbians in this bill. I did not support its removal from the overall legislation and am extremely disappointed that it will not be included when the House passes H.R. 3685.

Rep. Waxman ( ): As an original cosponsor of H.R. 2015, a more comprehensive version of this legislation, I am disappointed that H.R. 3685 does not protect against discrimination based on gender identity. I strongly support the amendment Representative Baldwin will offer to include gender identity in H.R. 3685 and if that amendment is not adopted, I pledge to work for an ENDA that includes gender identity.

Rep. Hirono: As an original cosponsor of the original ENDA, H.R. 2015, I am glad to be able to have this opportunity to debate the BALDWIN amendment to include anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals. It is unfortunate that political realities made it difficult to bring an inclusive ENDA to the floor today in the first place.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"And God gave me the wherewithal to get out of that and to find out who I really am."

Pastor Donnie McClurkin of the Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, Long Island, has been referred to as a "superstar black gospel singer" who views that "homosexuality is a choice." Pastor McLurkin’s controversial views became national news at a Barack Obama gospel concert in South Carolina, at which the Pastor performed, and then shared his viewpoint.

"God delivered me from homosexuality," he is reported as saying to the enthusiastic, mostly black, evangelical crowd of over 2,000. But there’s an essential falsehood in that statement – one that perhaps Pastor McClurkin himself does not really realize – and that is, that it isn't "homosexuality" that he was "delivered from."

McLurkin’s ex-gay story is based on his belief that he was gay in the first place. But here is what he has to say in an interview:

"Well, like I said, there was a big 20-year gap of sexual ambiguity where after the rape my desires were toward men, and I had to fight those things because I knew that it wasn't what we were taught in church was right. And the older I got, the more that became a problem, because those were the first two sexual relationships that I had. Eight years old and 13 years old. So that's what I was molded into. And I fought that."

That "sexual ambiguity" seems an awful lot like a non-gay, or perhaps somewhat slightly bisexual, Kinsey-scale-wise, experience. Surely someone who can choose to be gay or straight isn’t gay or straight at all – but is bisexual by nature, choosing one side of his nature to the exclusion of the other. Before I started researching for this blog entry, I was working from the theory that Pastor McClurkin might actually be one of those bisexual people.

But after reading his own description of his 20 years of "gay" experience, I might reasonably conclude that Donnie McClurkin was never cured of homosexuality, because he never had a gay orientation – he claims that all his gay sex, his "desires towards men," was the result of pressures from those in authority - "what I was molded into." And what did he do? He fought the pressures.

That is the same sort of situation that occurs when a naturally gay person struggles for years to try to be straight, or my own transsexual experience of being a woman who was expected to live in the role of a man, and who tried for many years to deny my nature just because of societal expectaions that my gender must be in conformity with my birth genital shape. I spent over 25 years trying very hard to assimilate in the world as a straight man after being told that I could not be transsexual in 1970 because of my attraction to women. As I was told, "Psychiatry won’t cure you of one disorder (transsexuality) to give you another (lesbianism)." And, of course, this predated the 1973 amendment to Psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) that took homosexuality out of the list of mental disorders.

Just like Pastor McClurkin, many gays, lesbians and trans people struggle with trying to fit in with societal expectations – it’s just that with the secret predator pedophile religious leaders in his church community many of the expectations were that he be gay, or rather, a willing victim.

In Pastor McClurkin’s words:

"And you were in an environment where there were hidden, you know, vultures I call them, that are hidden behind frocks and behind collars and behind -- you know, reverends and the deacons, and it becomes a preying ground, a place where the prey is hunted, and that was what it was like."

McClurkin basically describes a world in which pedophilia is common in the church community. But that predator/prey world isn’t a matter of a same-sex sexual orientation at all.

Pastor McClurkin said:

"And God gave me the wherewithal to get out of that and to find out who I really am."

"There's a group that says, "God made us this way," but then there's another group that knows God didn't make them that way."

The problem arises when Pastor McClurkin may not realize that God made some of us straight, some of us bisexual, and some of us gay – and that his experience of being pressured into being something he was not is a common experience with people who are gay who get pressured into acting straight.

The biggest problem with Pastor McClurkin’s "ex-gay" message is that it acknowledges the pain of only one kind of "pressure" and not the other. Pastor McClurkin’s experience has parallels that he might do well to one day acknowledge.

I can only reiterate, for my experience prior to transition, Pastor McClurkin’s words:

"And God gave me the wherewithal to get out of that and to find out who I really am."

And I pray that each of us, however we are by our nature, can come to accept the nature that God has given us – we should, most of all, be true to ourselves. God made me who I am – and who I am was not that man I tried to be for so many years. And God still loves me.


Quotes from Donnie McClurkin are from: