NLG Queer Committee Supports HRC Dinner Protesters

SAN FRANCISCO - The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter National Lawyers Guild Queer Committee supports the "Left Out Party" where people will protest the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) San Francisco Bay Area Gala because of its failure to support the rights of transgender individuals.

The Queer Committee disagrees with HRC's decision to continue its support of the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) after protections for transgender employees were stripped from the bill.

"The National Lawyers Guild's Queer Committee recognizes that we must work for an ENDA that protects our whole community," Co-Chair of the NLG's National Queer Committee, Sara Sturtevant said, "and we commit a wrong to our transgendered brothers and sisters when we ask them to wait for basic rights every individual should enjoy."

The Human Rights Campaign was founded in 1980 to promote fairness for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people through policy advocacy, community education and outreach, and grassroots organizing. The bill, introduced in 2007 by Representatives Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Chris Shays (R-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Deborah Price (R-Ohio), is a proposed U.S. federal law that would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation. Originally, the bill did include gender identity as a category to protect transgender employees, however the most recent version of the bill no longer includes that language.

HRC continues its support of ENDA, failing to join over 350 other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights organizations that withdrew their support of ENDA until it includes a provision protecting gender identity. After supporting the non-transgender inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act in late 2007, the Human Rights Campaign belittled the significance of the rights it purports to protect, and disappointed the community it claims to represent.

Expressing his dismay, former NLG Queer Committee Co-Chair David Waggoner said, "A human rights organization should no more support legislation that protects gays and lesbians while neglecting to protect people who are transgender than it should support legislation that would protect men but not women, or white people but not people of color. HRC's failure to insist on a trans-inclusive ENDA is only the latest sign that the organization's leadership is more interested in fomenting assimilation and feigned normalcy than fighting for human rights across race, class and gender lines."

"This is not just an issue for the queer or gay/lesbian community; transgender people are part of every community, and the right to work free of discrimination should be guaranteed to everyone. One of the most important things we must do in any fight for social justice is stand strong together, and not let ourselves be divided by the lure of albeit, long overdue rights to be afforded only to select groups or individuals. As a community of activists interested in achieving justice, failing to stand in solidarity for transgender rights is short-sighted and shameful; true justice can never be achieved while any are identified as not important enough or unworthy of the rights that others enjoy," said Anne Befu, Co-Chair of The United People of Color Caucus of the NLG (TUPOCC-NLG).

The 2008 Gala Dinner, the annual fundraiser for HRC is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 26, 2008 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, 335 Powell St. in San Francisco. Until HRC agrees to support an ENDA inclusive of gender identity protections, NLG-SF's Queer Committee calls upon everyone interested in the guarantee of civil rights for all to withhold financial support from HRC and join us in support of the protest.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color at that time. The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States, and includes law students and legal workers in its membership. The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter has over 900 members from San Jose to Sacramento.