Florida, surprisingly enough for a state that has a hateful anti-marriage amendment on the ballot this November, is trying to pass some ENDA legislation. Not surprisingly, there's a divide over who gets included as protected groups.
In a repeat of the divide that's plagued the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act in Congress, many leaders and activists don't want the Florida Senate measure to pass because it doesn't contain language that would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression. That provision would protect transgender people and others who don't conform to traditional male and female images.I don't want to get into the arguments and counter-arguments about whether or not this is a good strategy. I can't be pragmatic on this and I won't pretend to be, even while I recognize that incremental change is better overall than no change at all.
But I do think that supporting the non-inclusive bill in this particular case is a really bad idea for this reason, if no other.
If this were a case of something that actually has a chance of becoming law, I might be tempted toward the more pragmatic move, especially since we're talking about a situation where I'm boggled that the legislation has gotten this far in this state.
In Florida, even without the split, the gay-rights measure has virtually no chance of becoming law this year, with just three weeks left in the legislative session.
I can't emphasize enough how surprising this is. I mean, back in January, the anti-marriage people were told, with two weeks to go, that they needed 22,000 more signatures to get it on the ballot. I was excited because I figured they were done. Boy, was I wrong. So for ENDA legislation to have gotten this far is pretty amazing, given the mindset of many Florida Republicans--who control both houses of the legislature and the Governor's mansion.
But if there's no chance at its passage anyway, if it's bottled up in a legislative session and isn't going to reach the Governor's desk no matter what's in the bill, why not push for the more inclusive bill? Set the standard as far to the left as possible and work for that, rather than giving away the farm right from the beginning. Maybe, just maybe, legislators will come to their senses and do the right thing. Not much of a chance of that, I know, but if you give them a chance to not do it, you can bet your ass they won't.