Misdirected anger over ENDA

by: Adam Bink

Mon Dec 07, 2009 at 15:00

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'.

Adam Bink :: Misdirected anger over ENDA

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Adam you are 100% right here (4.00 / 1)
Doubly so since it makes no sense that a state law would interfere with Congress. Actually, I would think the pitched battles over marriage make merely passing ENDA uncontroversial, routine or centrist. I'm listening to the debate in the NJ Judiciary Committee right now and I'd say the discussion advances the cause of equal treatment.  

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

"I find this kind of circular firing blame game unhelpful." Oh, ok. (0.00 / 0)
Then I will refrain from commenting about the last time ENDA had a chance to be passed...

the Judean People's Front? (4.00 / 2)
Piss off! We're the People's Front of Judea!

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

ENDA is crucial to introducing equal protection arguments at the federal level (0.00 / 0)
in comtemplation of DOMA repeal or overturning. Just an observation about your and other activist failure it seems to understand the legal value to your own fight.  

Did I say ENDA was unimportant? (4.00 / 2)
No, I said I chose to work on equally important issues.

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[ Parent ]
My point is how these things related to each other (0.00 / 0)
Many of you seem to have a very thin skin. It is frankly frustrating to talk to you on that level. My first law professor would always say that if you are going to be a lawyer, you need to develop a thick skin because you need to objectively consider the option and strategies, and how to win. My advice is not about you personally or your emotions regarding what I am saying. I am telling you what is the strategic value of ENDA as it relates to marriage equality.

I was providing you with an understanding of how legally one relates to the other because both go to the equality under the law and treating gays as a suspect class subject to animus. The later point already having been introduced at the federal level through hate crimes. How ENDA is significant is for introducing the concept of equality under the law. Treating them as separate issue rather than the same is flawed judgment. They are part of the same issue- equal protection analysis- as far as the law is concerned. So, while you are focusing on marriage equality, you are missing opportunities to enhance your ability to eventually win the repeal or overturning of DOMA- just to name one way this matters. It is not that in a court that ENDA would be controlling, but it would add to the suggestive/compelling legal arguments that a civil rights lawyer could make on DOMA. "Look see- there's ENDA protecting equality under the law for this suspect class. See how the laws are changing. You should overturn DOMA because the law is changing." This, of course, would require a long term strategy such as how the NAACP Legal Defense Fund understood how to achieve a civil rights goal.

Thus, how you argument misses the point because it does not understand the interrelationship. It is not one or the other issue- it is how they are interrelated.  

[ Parent ]
Sigh (0.00 / 0)
Again, I never said it was one or the other, or one is more important. I fully understand the relationship. You should also understand how pushing for marriage in many states has led to smaller, more incremental measures as legislators and advocates look for a compromise. It works both ways.

But while I appreciate and agree with your discussion, this piece is not about priority or interrelationships between issues. The piece is about misplaced blame.

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[ Parent ]
And my point is spend more time on making the links (0.00 / 0)
so that people can understand them. Many, including a lot of gays, do not.  

[ Parent ]
Just imagine the others here are judges, Bruh. (0.00 / 0)
Now, you wouldn't try if the judge is a thick skinned guy, right? Not helpful for winning your case.

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