An update from Orelia Busch on ENDA
On Wednesday Orelia Busch, SSL activist, UUA Legislative Assistant for Women’s Issues, was arrested by District of Columbia police for participating in a sit-in protest at the U.S. Capitol.
Since the fall of 2009, I have listened to promises and timelines for the passage of the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), and I have seen them broken and abandoned over and over again.
Every day, people across the country are getting fired from their jobs and threatened or harassed not because of a lack of skills or ability, but simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our lawmakers have the opportunity to end this state sanctioned discrimination, and yet, they are not doing everything they can. They are not being the fierce advocates we need. They are telling us that we need to make them stand up and be our allies. I am tired of waiting.
Lawmakers like Nancy Pelosi have asked me and others to “start the drum-beat” for ENDA and full legal equality. I heeded their call by engaging in civil disobedience in the hopes that they will remain accountable to those of us who have put them in office and trusted them to uphold our rights. Getting arrested felt spiritual, almost like my voice and my actions were not merely my own. I was performing a ritual to take back the Rotunda, the center of D.C. and a symbol of the power of our nation and its people. Non violent direct action locates my body, the core of my being, squarely in between the oppressed and the oppressor in order to disrupt a cycle of institutional violence against communities I identify and align myself with.
I was called to put my body on the line for ENDA because I am lucky enough not to have to do so every day. Being a white, middle-class, bisexual woman offers me some level of protection and camouflage in this world. I possess privilege due to my class and skin color, and my queer identity is not always outwardly apparent. My gender identity and expression match what I was assigned at birth. My identity is not called into question or used against me on a daily basis. So many others in this country do not have the same luxury. I took action for all those whose voices are silenced out of fear for their lives and their jobs and their families. I took action for all those who are dying and homeless because they lack basic workplace protection from discrimination and harassment.
I will continue to do everything I can to witness and remain in solidarity with all people who are marginalized and face discrimination because of who they are. No matter what challenges or privileges we live with, our fates are inextricably tied to one another as members of one human family. As I write this, my friends and colleagues are being arrested in Arizona for protesting immigration enforcement policies that egregiously violate human rights. I am proud to know them and to work with them so that the laws, policies and culture of our nation truly respect the worth and dignity inherent in all of us.
No one can stand alone in this struggle. I was supported in my actions by an incredible group of local activists and organizers who had all come to the same conclusion that I have – our voices will be heard. I am doing my best to learn how to build bridges between and within the communities around me so that we can all stand on the side of love with each other.
We are all somebody. We deserve full equality right here, right now.