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13 Chicago LGBTs Demanding ENDA Passage Arrested at Sen. Durbin's Office [video]

GLN permalink 5-20-2010

Thirteen protesters demanding that Democratic Senator Dick Durbin actually do something for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights -- rather than just talk about it -- sat in at his office today and were arrested. The focus of the action was passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Action (ENDA) ensuring job protections for LGBT people.

LGBT Sit-In at Dick Durbin's Chicago Office

In Durbin's case, the distinction between words and actions couldn't be more stark. He says he favors LGBT legal equality, including passage of ENDA and repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). Yet he voted for DADT in 1993 and for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Today he's a sponsor of ENDA, but has done next to nothing to advocate for it. He says he opposes employment discrimination, yet his 1993 DADT vote ensures that the nation's largest employer (the military) continues discriminating and he has refused to demand that President Obama issue a stop-loss order for outed military personnel.

Today's action was organized by a coalition of activists from the Gay Liberation Network, Join the Impact-Chicago and LGBT Change. Here are statements from two GLN participants in today's action:

Here's why I "fired" Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and the Democratic Party today:

(from the pink slip handed to Durbin's office)

"Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans people and our allies hereby discharge and fire Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and the Democratic Party. Your actions and inaction constantly fire, discharge, separate, deport, impoverish, and diminish LGBTs. In turn, we fire you.

Pass ENDA, Repeal DOMA, Pass UAFA, Repeal DADT"

Our community needs to stand up and tell the truth, that we are being attacked by our government and society! They should be ashamed. It is domestic terrorism to not allow us to sponsor our lovers for immigration, to fire us from jobs in the military, to allow employers to reject us and fire us, to deny us medical coverage of our partners, to endanger ourselves and our relationships. As we chanted before arrest, "Shame, shame, shame, shame..." The status quo destabilizes our lives and must be stopped.

--Brent Holman-Gomez

I am a retired suburban school teacher who taught younger grades for thirty-three years. All during my career, I was also a closeted transgendered person who was out only to my wife. After retirement, I vowed to fight oppression against transgendered people by becoming a political activist in their defence. I had seen scenes of discrimination and cruelty directed against vulnerable children whom both teachers and students stigmatised as being "different" and "queer." I had seldom raised my voice in their defense, either in the faculty lounge or in the classroom because I feared I would be found out and the hate and intolerance directed against the children would then be directed against me. It was not until near the end of my career that the public attention given the LGBT movement---a movement composed of many brave souls willing to put themselves on the line in defense of human rights for themselves and others---inspired me to begin doing the same.

Today the transgendered issue that is in the news is whether the Employee Non-Discrimination bill before the Congress, which contains, in Nancy Pelosi's words, "controversial language" covering people whose gender-identity is challenged or in doubt. Senator Durbin sponsored this bill. Why, then, you may wonder, would we attack Durbin by going to his office and refusing to leave? The answer is the same as what you could once have said about me as a teacher. It is not enough to be for something in your heart; it is not enough to stand passively by and hope things will turn out okay when discrimination and oppression are going on all around you; it is not enough to timidly speak up against oppression and hope against hope that speaking up will be enough, that you will not be called on to do more because then things might get costly and embarrassing!

Actions speak louder than words. We are judged by what we do.

What has Durbin done? He voted for the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) in the military in 1993. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. Both pieces of legislation harm the LGBT community and highlight the fact we're second-class sitizens, and both pieces of legislation were passed during a Democratic administration. Does Durbin regret his votes in the 1990s? If so, does he intend to do something about them to make things right as I am trying to do as a political activist in my retirement? Will he round up votes in the Senate to repeal DOMA, get ENDA passed, and take the lead in speaking out for an immediate end to DADT? No, he has showed himself unwilling to do any of these things before an election. He is playing it safe as I once did, and that is why I was in his office today. (I wish somebody like me had been in my office thirty years ago!)

Nor is Durbin alone. All the Democrats are playing it safe on "controversial issues" like LGBT rights. They refuse to honor election promises made in 2008. They have disappointed Americans sick of war, immigrants hoping for humane immigration reform, workers hoping to join a union or just hang on to their jobs, people longing for a rational and just health care system, and homeowners hoping to save their homes.

With friends like the Democrats, who needs Republican enemies?

We, LGBT people and all working and nonworking Americans alike who dream of a better and more just country, need to divorce ourselves from the Democratic Party. We need to build a movement whose integrity and strength neither party can deny and that the Democrats can ignore only at their peril.

-- Roger Fraser

ENDA13 in Senator Durbin's Office


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