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Special Edition: NCTE Newsletter
A Call to Arms
By Mara Keisling
It is absolutely CRUNCH TIME.
This year. Now.
Several amazing life-saving victories are within our reach.
We have a real chance right now to win federal protections for transgender people, but only if we all join in.
Transgender people and allies have been working for years-decades really-to try to write and pass both a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and a federal hate crime bill that include protections for transgender people. And for the past year or so, we have all been addressing the very real growing threat from the unfair and ill-conceived Real ID Act.
This year-2007-thanks to over a decade of work and much support from a lot of people, we are looking at a very realistic possibility of passing ENDA, passing a hate crimes law, and possibly even passing a repeal of the Real ID Act. NCTE is working collaboratively with the entire LGBT movement and indeed the entire Civil Rights community to make ENDA the law of the land.
We at NCTE have spent the time since we were founded working with many of you to get to this point. NCTE is right at the center of all of this legislative movement and, believe me, right now we need to ask every transgender person and everyone who considers themselves a loved one or ally of transgender people to step up and speak out.
This special edition of our newsletter is part of our mobilization process. Beginning with this newsletter, we hope to provide transgender and allied people around the country with a constant flow of information about the progress the bills are making and how everyone can chip in and do their part to pass them into law.
In this issue, we discuss ENDA, The federal hate crimes bill, repealing the Real ID Act, ways you can get involved, NCTE's lobby day and other ways to pitch in.
Over the next few months, we will be working very hard at NCTE-harder than ever-and asking as many people as possible to do all of the following things and others:
We are so close to passing federal protections for transgender people-let's close the deal. It's crunch time!
The ENDA is Near?
No policy has received the focus of transgender activists and allies over the past ten years more than the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). For much of that time, tremendous energy has been spent advocating for the redrafting of ENDA to include "gender identity" as a protected characteristic so that it would be illegal to fire or not hire a qualified employee because of that person's sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
NCTE has been at the center of the work on this vital legislation, providing significant technical assistance to members of Congress as it has been drafted for introduction this year. And though ENDA has not yet been introduced this year, NCTE is very optimistic that years of trans advocacy are paying off. Not only are we optimistic that the trans-inclusive bill we have worked for could be introduced, we believe it has a real chance to actually pass this year. If we all work hard.
As soon as ENDA is introduced, which could be as early as this March, NCTE will release a plan for how transgender people and our allies can do our part to get it passed. We'll provide fact sheets, talking points and everything you need to advocate for the bill.
Not Too Hated for the Hate Crimes Bill
Brandon Teena. Tyra Hunter. Marsha P. Johnson. Rita Hester. Gwen Araujo. F.C. Martinez, Jr. The list goes on. Transgender people are frequent targets of fatal bias crimes and have been advocating for years for a federal hate crime law that would help address this crisis.
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act (LLEHCPA), would allow federal law enforcement resources to be used to assist local and state law enforcement. More importantly, it would send a strong statement that it is wrong, unacceptable, and criminal to hurt people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability.
In September 2005, for the first time ever, a trans-positive piece of legislation passed one chamber of Congress when the House passed LLEHCPA by a sizable margin. At the introduction of the bill, NCTE's Executive Director made history as she stood on the podium with four members of Congress to discuss the need to make our America safe for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people-something we couldn't have even imagined five years ago.
This year, we are very optimistic that LLEHCPA will be reintroduced and this time will pass both the House and the Senate and will be signed into law. Because the bill has been carefully drafted to protect freedoms of expression and religion, as well as to ensure that it does not exacerbate existing problems with the criminal justice system, the entire national Civil Rights community is now solidly behind this explicitly trans-inclusive bill.
We hope the bill will be introduced within the next few days. When it is, NCTE will release a plan for how you can do your part to get it passed, as well as arm you with all the materials you need to advocate for its passage.
The Real Nightmare of Real ID Could Be Over
Of the many over-reactions to terrorism in recent years, none may be more generally irresponsible or harmful to trans people than the Real ID Act, which is scheduled to be implemented in the Spring of 2008. NCTE staff, board and volunteers have spent more than a year working collaboratively within a large coalition of privacy, immigration and human rights organizations and state governments trying to temper the implementation of the Act while at the same time working to fully repeal it.
This year, as we await what are expected to be unfair and unworkable implementation regulations from the Department of Homeland Security, this broad coalition has begun to make progress in forcing this very bad policy to crash under its own stupid weight. The state of Maine has already passed legislation opting out of the Act and other states are expected to follow soon. And an army of lawyers is preparing an army of lawsuits to block implementation of the Real ID Act.
Until, the already overdue regulations are issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the exact impact of Real ID is hard to assess, but if the Real ID Act does go into effect as planned, it would possibly have the following very negative impacts on transgender people:
More and more though, it appears that there is a good chance of overturning this nightmare legislation. NCTE will continue to work hard every day in coalition with others to make sure it is repealed. We will provide more information over the next few weeks about the Real ID Act and what you can do to speed its well-deserved demise.
What YOU Can Do
Remember that legislators do take seriously the input they get from constituents like you. Your participation is vital to the successful passage of transgender-inclusive legislation. Every letter, every phone call and every visit to a member of Congress is a step forward in the movement for transgender equality. Those who oppose our rights have already started spreading their message of fear and intolerance; it is so important that our representatives hear the truth from us.
Here are four important actions that you can do today:
Share Your Story
Have you been fired for being LGBT?
Now you have the power to end LGBT discrimination on the job. Congress is poised to introduce federal legislation outlawing LGBT discrimination in the workplace. But we still need your help to persuade lawmakers in Washington that LGBT job discrimination is a problem that demands immediate attention. Stories of discrimination put a public face on the issue and help change opinion. We need to hear from people who have been fired or refused a job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We are looking for people from all walks of life and who have held all kinds of jobs: from fast food workers to brain surgeons. Your stories can compel Congress to support passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Proof that you were fired or refused a job for being LGBT strengthens your story, but the proof doesn't have to be in writing. It could be something your boss said to you - before you were fired, as you were being fired or even during the interview process when you first applied for the job.
Your name and contact information will be kept safe with us. NCTE is working with a coalition of the ACLU as well as other LGBT and civil rights groups and may share your story internally. Some state legislatures are also considering passing anti-discrimination laws, and we may share your story with the statewide LGBT lobbying organizations pushing for those laws. But someone will always contact you first for permission if we are interested in using your story in our lobbying and media efforts.
Thank you for taking this important step towards ending discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace.
We Need Your Support
Having federal legislation introduced this year to protect the rights and wellbeing of transgender people is an enormous achievement for our community. It also takes an incredible amount of work, most of it behind the scenes.
NCTE has spent thousands of hours in meetings with Congress and our progressive allies to ensure that everyone understands the urgency of including gender identity in all new legislation. We've worked on Capitol Hill to build invaluable working relationships with members of Congress and their staff, responding to questions and educating about the discrimination and violence that transgender people face on a daily basis. We've provided resources and training to transgender advocates in states across the country to continue the string of victories for our rights. We've invested many hours educating the community about ways that they can make a personal difference in the movement for transgender equality.
This is only possible because of the support that so many of you have given to us. Now we need your help more than ever. We've built a solid base of support for legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a hate crimes bill and more, and now is the time to pull out all of the stops and do everything we can to pass those bills into law.
In the coming months, we'll be attending meetings to provide technical assistance to members of Congress who want to learn more about transgender people and our lives and to increase support for the bills. We'll be writing fact sheets and resources for community advocates to use. We're going to spend hundreds of hours on the phone making appointments for constituents to visit their members of Congress. And much, much more.
We need your help to make this happen. We need you to visit your members of Congress, to write them letters and to encourage others to do the same. We also need your financial support to pay the phone bills so we can make those calls, to buy postage for urgent mailings, to keep the computers and website up and running and the staff present to continue to work diligently for the passage of these bills. Any tax-deductible gift that you can give will help us in this critical time. You can give once or on a monthly basis, easily and securely on our website. Please consider making a gift today. To make a tax-deductible donation, please click here to visit our secure site.
To view NCTE's past newsletters, view our Archives.
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