Posts Tagged ‘Senate’

First Ever Openly Transgender Witness Testifies Before U.S. Senate

No Comments | Share On Facebook| First Ever Openly Transgender Witness Testifies Before U.S. Senate Share/Save/Bookmark Jun 14, 2012

“This discrimination is absolutely wrong, it is morally wrong, and we must end it.”
- Senator Jeff Merkley, chief sponsor of ENDA

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Kylar Broadus, founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

This week, I had the honor of attending the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s first hearing in three years on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in nonreligious workplaces with at least 15 employees. First introduced in 1994 by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, ENDA has since been reintroduced many times in many different forms. The current version of the bill was introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and enjoys bipartisan support, including Republican co-sponsors Ron Kirk (IL), Olympia Snowe (ME), and Susan Collins (ME). Currently, 29 states have no anti-discrimination laws protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual workers. Transgender workers lack statutory protections in 34 states. In the words of Samuel Bagenstos, a former Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights who testified in favor of the bill, this results in a “need for a comprehensive, clear standard that applies across the country.”

Tuesday’s hearing was particularly historic because it featured the first openly transgender person to testify before the U.S. Senate. Kylar Broadus, founder of the Missouri-based Trans People of Color Coalition, told the committee about how he was fired from his job after he decided to transition from female to male, saying “It’s devastating, it’s demoralizing and dehumanizing to be put in that position. I sit here as a 50-year-old man wondering what I am going to do, and other people are in much worse situations than I.” He also testified that discrimination has caused him to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that his student loans have quadrupled as a result of underemployment. I was impressed by Kylar’s composure and bravery as he spoke publicly to a packed hearing room about his personal experiences.

Other members of the panel that spoke in favor of ENDA included Dr. M.V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute, and Ken Charles, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at General Mills. Dr. Badgett testified that 27% of LGBT people and 47% of transgender people report discrimination in job retention, promotion, and hiring, and that this type of discrimination is reported at the same rates as women and people of color. She said of the Institute’s studies on the treatment of LGBT people in employment, “All evidence points to widespread and persistent discrimination of LGBT Americans.” General Mills’ Ken Charles spoke about the added value that anti-discrimination protections would bring to businesses, saying “It is absolutely critical that employees are able to bring their full self to work every day. That allows our organizations to grow and thrive. We believe that ENDA will unleash the potential of thousands and millions of employees to be their full selves.”

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This post was written by Meredith Lukow, Standing on the Side of Love Program Assistant.

Among the items submitted for the record were two letters–one signed by 37 religious organizations, including the Unitarian Universalist Association, and another from 90 major corporations–both voicing support for ENDA and its protections for LGBT people. However, I was disheartened to notice that none of the committee’s Republican members showed up to the hearing, apparently unconcerned about the effect that employment discrimination has on the LGBT members of our communities.

During the question and answer portion of the hearing, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) declared that she wants to pass ENDA out of committee “expeditiously.” Committee chair Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) responded, “I hope so.” I hope so too, Senator Harkin, I hope so too.

Urge Senate to Ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

2 Comments | Share On Facebook| Urge Senate to Ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Share/Save/Bookmark May 24, 2012

un_logoIn May, President Obama officially sent the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the Senate for ratification. The Convention, which is the first human rights treaty of the 21st century, aims to improve circumstances related to housing, transportation, education, and health care for the roughly 650 million who live with disabilities worldwide.

Will you write to your Senators and urge them to ratify the treaty?

People with disabilities constitute America’s largest minority group. It is a very diverse population, comprised of people from every ethnicity, age group, race, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. It is also the only minority that anyone might become part of at any time.

According to Wendy  Taormina-Weiss, writing in Disabled World, ”millions of Americans with Disabilities are deprived of their rights, despite legal protections related to us, due to a lack of awareness and failure to provide us with reasonable accommodations in a number of areas. Persons with disabilities in this nation continue to face considerable levels of discrimination related to employment, services, education, and additional areas.”

In its preamble, the Convention recognizes “that discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.” This echoes the first principle of Unitarian Universalism, which calls us to support efforts that would curb any such violation.

Although the Obama administration signed the Convention in 2009, it still requires ratification from the Senate in order to carry the force of law. Disability advocates are calling upon the government to act now, since the U.S. will not be eligible to join the inaugural leadership committee that will oversee the convention if the Senate does not approve the treaty before September.

“The rights of Americans with disabilities should not end at our nation’s shores,” Obama wrote in his request to the Senate. “Ratification of the disabilities convention by the United States would position the United States to occupy the global leadership role to which our domestic record already attests.”

Please lift up your voice on this important issue by writing to your Senators today and urging them to ratify the treaty.

Video: Flood the Senate with Calls for Love

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Video: Flood the Senate with Calls for Love Share/Save/Bookmark Dec 17, 2010

Despite partisan wrangling, I believe there are times when legislators will do the right thing and stand on the side of love.

Sometimes, they just need enough of us to lead them there.

The DREAM Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will go for votes in the next day. The fates of millions of immigrant students and gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers hang in the balance.

Please watch this video to find out what you can do right now to stand up for millions of people who need our love.

After watching, dial (202)224-3121 and ask to be connected to your senator’s office.

Your Help Needed to Repeal DADT and Pass the DREAM Act

4 Comments | Share On Facebook| Your Help Needed to Repeal DADT and Pass the DREAM Act Share/Save/Bookmark Sep 16, 2010

Next week, the U.S. Senate will vote on two crucial human rights measures – a repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” which bars openly same-gender-loving people from serving in the military, and enactment of the DREAM Act, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16, and have been here for at least five years, to earn legal status if they pass background checks, attend college or serve in the military for at least two years.

Over the past year, you have urged your legislators to support these measures, and asked Congressional leadership to bring them to the floor. Because of your advocacy, the time for a debate and a vote has finally arrived.

Please click here to urge your senators to support both of these measures.

Both of these bills will be voted on as amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act. For those of us who passionately advocate peace over war, consideration of these two priority measures in a bill dealing with the expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense is a bitter pill to swallow. Still, there is no denying that the tactic of using this spending bill as a means to pass progressive legislation has proven effective, most recently with the passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

It appears that the only opportunity to move forward legislative priorities of the immigrant rights and LGBT civil rights movements in 2010 are through these two crucial votes next week. Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and passing the DREAM Act are moral imperatives that every legislator should support, regardless of how these measures come to the floor. Unfortunately, Republicans are threatening to filibuster to prevent these measures from becoming law.

We need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and we need your help to make this happen!

Click here email your U.S. senators in support of these two measures.

In the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization.”

In partnership and equality,

Dan Furmansky
Campaign Manager
Standing on the Side of Love

P.S. If you can, take an extra 2 minutes and call your U.S. Senators to let them know you support the Dream ACT and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Dial (202) 224-3121 and a switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.