Dr. Jillian Weiss, who has been writing frequently about the progress of ENDA in Congress, has a piece up over the postponement of the markup in the House. In it, she blames marriage equality activists such as myself for paying too much attention to, um, marriage equality:
It is 5 minutes to midnight on ENDA, with still a possibility of getting a vote this year if everyone pulls together, and what happens? Do we have LGBT and progressive media exploding with articles of protest and telling people how to lobby Congress effectively to get this moving?
Nope. Instead, a NY marriage vote that was known to be doomed sucks all the oxygen out of the room. The D.C. city council preliminary vote on marriage and a possible marriage vote in NJ are also in the news. But unlike most mornings when I crank up my Google machine, there are no news articles this morning on ENDA, anywhere.
A couple of things:
1. Let me say first that I immensely respect Jill's work on this issue, which has been tremendous. Let me also ask that you call Chairman Miller's office at (202) 224-3121 and ask that he take up ENDA as an urgent priority.
2. I reject blame placed upon people who choose to focus on an issue and pound on it. In the first place is prioritization. By my own estimate, probably 80% of my posts and online organizing in the past three months have related to marriage equality. I focused on marriage in the Corzine race, Maine, New York State, DC, California, and New Jersey. I did this in part because of prioritization. At least 4/6 of those fights, in my view, were a more urgent priority than ENDA. Maine and Corzine happened on Nov 3rd and there is no way to change that. A deal was cut to have a vote in NYS before the end of the year. NJ needs to happen lest we get screwed the next several years by Christie. That's not mine or anyone else's fault, that's the nature of the beast and the timeline of elections, and that is part of the reason I chose to focus on them over ENDA.
3. I chose ME as my priority just as Jill is entitled to choose ENDA as hers. Yet it's my fault, in part, that a markup got postponed because I asked people to focus on equally- perhaps more important and urgent- fights? By Jill's logic, I suppose I'm entitled to write a post blaming Jill for helping lose NYS because she "sucked all the oxygen out of the room" at The Bilerico Project around ENDA. I suppose it's also my fault we don't have the votes on DOMA, DADT hasn't advanced and children are still starving in Africa because I've been asking folks to help with other issues.
ENDA is not the only important fight in the world. I would also direct attention to Chris' piece last night on how to build your own netroots organization. If you are upset by the perpetual suckitude of marriage activists like me for, you know, working on marriage too much, go build your own effort, and I am more than happy to help where I can.
4. I raised money to go to Maine in part because I didn't see enough attention being paid to the race- most of the energy was around health care- just as Jill said she started working on ENDA because no one was working on it, so I respect that. But I would never write a post blaming bloggers like Chris or Mike or anyone else for helping lose Maine because they think health care is important, and it captured people's attention. They have a right to care about what they want, as do readers like you. It's not like they or I were sitting on our asses when we could have helped. And you have to actually reach out and ask for help, sometimes.
5. On her organizing in general, we've gotten pretty good at whip counts here at OpenLeft recently. For Jill to list 45 Senators as "unconfirmed" over ENDA is odd. Who in the world expects bigots like McConnell and Sessions and Cornyn, who have opposed ENDA and every other piece of LGBT rights legislation for years, to suddenly come around? Not only does this amount to a waste of people's resources, when a Texas activist thinks it's suddenly important to spend time lobbying Cornyn, but it makes things seem not as up to date as they should be. Fixing this would help.
So I find this kind of circular firing blame game unhelpful. I have limited time to write and mobilize, and a right to prioritize issues. We all do. ENDA is far from over, and blaming activists like me for a House committee markup postponement is misdirected. Better would be to channel the losses over marriage into "hey folks, we just got screwed on marriage in multiple places and we're about to get screwed on ENDA- let's make sure we don't" activism. And to build your own efforts through methods like Chris' recommendations, reach out, and stop saying your priorities are more important than others'.