There’s a guest blog today on Bilerico Project from Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and six other national civil rights organizations. The bloggers seek to remind opponents of anti-gay discrimination of the need to support the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). They write:
A large majority of Americans agree that employment should be based on the ability to do the job–this measure isn’t even controversial with the general public. It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now. So what needs to happen next? Work is happening in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but the most immediate action needed is for the House Education and Labor Committee to take up ENDA in what is called a markup…
It is most encouraging that our LGBT leaders are continuing to put pressure on the elected officials in Washington, and reminders to the grassroots to contact representatives at pivotal times in the process are welcome. Leaving aside questions about the strategy of particular legislative priorities, their goal deserves to be supported wholeheartedly by every supporter of equality—gay, straight, and everyone.
If there is a fault to be seen by posts such as this, it is a missed opportunity. Many of us live in overwhelmingly blue districts with pro-ENDA representatives and Senators who need no persuasion. When I see posts such as this one, I do feel a sense that it isn’t really speaking to me.
Perhaps that feeling is shared by AndrewW, a commenter on the Bilerico blog. He wrote:
After you become tired of making calls to Congress without positive results or the reality of the situation settles in, please start calling your neighbors. Call anyone and everyone. Each one of those calls are much more valuable than thousands of calls to Congress.
While I don’t agree with AndrewW in every respect, he has made an important point: political action is no substitute for cultural action. Calls to one’s neighbors (or family or co-workers), especially to those with whom we disagree, are much, much harder. What’s required is both cultural and political efforts combined.
Contacting one’s neighbor is more than a one-way diatribe, but an actual conversation with a real live human being. Such conversations require more than strong convictions and passion, but a temperament of openness to reasoned debate and a willingness to listen as well as advocate.
Our leadership, for all their good intentions, needs to be more demanding of the entire homophile community. Instead of asking for the easy “gets,” the usual “e-mail your Senator” request, leaders need to be bold enough to ask for real sacrifice.