Friday, April 26, 2013
Today: legal stuff!
I think it's important for people to be informed about what's going on in the legislative system. Particularly people who are interested in social change. And it's not my favorite method of creating change, but it's sill beneficial to be at least a little knowledgable about what's going on and what affects the communities you care about. It can be tiring though. There is so much information and it is difficult to sort through. It's not written in a friendly way and I, at least, get exhausted trying to figure it all out on my own. But it's still important to work through it. And I am going to start with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act reintroduced yesterday, April 25th, in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
For those of you reading this who also have a hard time following legislative stuff, this bill would make gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation illegal to discriminate on for employment. It is important to cover both gender identity and gender expression to make sure people can identify as they do and express that identity how they choose without fear of repercussions or discrimination. The Huffington Post article "ENDA 2013: Everything You Need to Know" provides the definition of gender identity that is included in the bill. It is "the gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms or other gender related characteristics of an individual with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth."
The inclusion of appearance and mannerisms is important then. I also wonder how broadly this definition can be used. All people have a gender identity and gender expression. There are just identities and expressions that are considered more "acceptable" for people by society and some that are less so. I indentify as a woman, as assigned on my brith certificate, and I express that identity in different ways. If this bill passed, my gender expression, everyone's gender expression would be protected as well, giving more freedom to all people to express their gender identities outside of the narrow spaces in which society often expects us all to fit.
Yet, there is an issue with the bill as it is now. There is a religious exemption in the bill that would allow for discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. The article, "ACLU, LGBT Groups Raise “Grave Concerns” About Job Bill Religious Exemption" explains it well. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits discrimination based on religious grounds but not with regard to "race, color, sex, or national origin." This bill would allow for religious discrimination with regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gend expression. Greg Nevins, Lamda Legal attorney, says, "It would be setting up a two-tiered system saying that race, color, sex, and national origin discrimination cannot be engaged in by one of these entities, but sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination can."
So I argue that it is important to be aware of this and to work for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to be known legally as protected a status as race, color, sex, and national origin. Legal change may not be my favorite or the best way to work on eliminating social inequalities but its an important tool that we do have. It looks somewhat favorable for the passage of ENDA this year and increasing awareness about this bill can help a lot.
Huffington Post article