Poverty is a Queer Issue


by Gloria Nieto
June 29, 2010
(source)

Over the weekend, Pride weekend in many parts of the world, I visited with old friends.  What was completely astonishing to me was the state of poverty that we find ourselves in right now.

All of us are well over 50.  We are the only ones to lose our home at this point.  The other friends are barely holding on.  Of the four of us out the other night at the Egyptian museum, only one of us has a job.  The other three hobos, I mean homos, have all been gainfully employed all our adult lives.  One has owned and operated several businesses over time.  Her unemployment just ran out on Friday.  She is one of the 1.3 million who were dropped that day.

My unemployment ran out back in April.  No income since then so my spouse is trying to keep both of us afloat.

The other friend is on disability and her partner is her paid caregiver.  The Governator is about to drop that program so that poor disabled will continue to bear the burden of this Depression.  They live a half hour drive out of town and cannot afford to move in closer to town so they are facing down foreclosure also.

I have to give a shout out to fellow blogger Patricia Nell Warren  for also talking about the financial crisis many lgbt folks find themselves in, including herself.  We are losing our houses, our savings, our dignity in this disaster.

In all the latest rumblings about LGBT rights, I wonder how we get more of our own folks realizing the recession is a queer issue?  ENDA is a jobs bill, so is DADT.  But ultimately my life and ability to be a participating member is tied up in the Senate and their lack of understanding of our realities, straight and LGBT.

It was finally explained to me during my last visit to DC.  It is an obvious answer, really.  None of the legislature, Senate and House alike, ever see needy people every day.  There is always money in DC so since they don’t go outside of the comfort zone of the Hill and their homes, why would they see the other realities.

There is no urgency on the economy.  There is no urgency on anything.  When I heard the President tell the folks on the Gulf Coast that they were not going to be forgotten, I thought well what about the rest of us?  You have forgotten about us and left us.  We have no help and there is no help on the horizon.

Abandoned.

Let me ask this – how many unemployed people were invited to the White House cocktail party last week?  All the glowing reports of words from the President are irrelevant without action.  There is no action because we have been forgotten and left behind.  Again.

This continued depression has a strong effect on our community.  How many lgbt centers are struggling?  The AIDS prevention money was stripped from the California budget so who will be the next wave of infected gay men in California?  How many activists are sidelined because they have no resources and cannot devote time to planning or activism because we are crippled by poverty.  Getting turned down repeatedly for jobs doesn’t do a lot for a person’s self esteem, trust me.

There is a price to pay for this disaster.

Unfortunately, those who should be paying for it are summering in the Hamptons.  The rest of us are stuck with the bill, both financial and emotional.

So during this month of Pride, while we celebrate all our victories over the years, try to remember those on the sidelines, struggling to keep our heads above water.  Equality should mean an equal chance to contribute to our communities, live  a good life, and hold our heads high.

Mr. Fierce Advocate, this is your chance to make a difference for all of us.

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Statement on the Failure of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act


by Bill Clinton
June 24, 1999

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

Today, Members of the House and Senate will re-introduce, on a bipartisan basis, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”). This important civil rights legislation would extend basic employment discrimination protections to gay and lesbian Americans. I strongly support this bill, and we will work hard for its passage.

Americans instinctively believe in fairness. They believe that individuals should not be denied a job on the basis of something that has no relationship to their ability to perform their work. Yet most Americans don’t know that men and women in 39 states of this nation may be fired from their jobs solely because of their sexual orientation, even when it has no bearing on their job performance. Sadly, as Congressional hearings have documented, this kind of job discrimination is not rare.

Those who face job discrimination based on sexual orientation usually have no legal recourse, in either our state or federal courts. This is wrong. Last year, I issued an executive order making permanent a long-standing federal policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the civilian federal workplace. I hope that Congress will make that policy a national one by passing this important legislation.

I applaud the bipartisan efforts of Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, and Lieberman and Congressmen Shays and Frank to make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act the law. ENDA failed to win passage by only one vote when the Senate last considered it. My Administration will continue to work for its passage until it becomes law.

Sexual Orientation Equal Employment Opportunity Executive Order


by Bill Clinton
May 28, 1998

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

Today I have signed an Executive Order entitled Further Amendment to Executive Order 11478, Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal Government. The Order provides a uniform policy for the Federal Government to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal civilian workforce and states that policy for the first time in an Executive Order of the President.

It has always been the practice of this Administration to prohibit discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation in the civilian workforce, and most federal agencies and department have taken actions, such as the issuance of policy directives or memoranda from the agency heads, to memorialize that policy. The Executive Order I have signed today will ensure that there is a uniform policy throughout the Federal Government by adding sexual orientation to the list of categories for which discrimination is prohibited in Executive Order 11478 (i.e. race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or age).

This Executive Order states Administration policy but does not and cannot create any new enforcement rights (such as the ability to proceed before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Those rights can be granted only by legislation passed by the Congress, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. I again call upon Congress to pass this important piece of civil rights legislation which would extend these basic employment discrimination protections to all gay and lesbian Americans. Individuals should not be denied a job on the basis of something that has no relationship to their ability to perform their work.

Statement by the President on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (1997)


by Bill Clinton

April 24, 1997

Today, Vice-President Gore and I met with a bi-partisan delegation from Congress, representing the lead House and Senate sponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”) — an important piece of civil rights legislation which would extend basic employment discrimination protections to gay and lesbian Americans. At our meeting, I underscored my strong support of the bill, which will soon be re-introduced in Congress, and our intention to work hard for its passage.

As I said in my State of the Union address this January, we must never, ever believe that our diversity is a weakness, for it is our greatest strength. People on every continent can look to us and see the reflection of their own great potential — and they always will, as long as we strive to give all of our citizens an opportunity to achieve their own greatness. We’re not there yet — and that is why ENDA is so important. It is about the right of each individual in America to be judged on their merits and abilities and to be allowed to contribute to society without facing unfair discrimination on account of sexual orientation. It is about our ongoing fight against bigotry and intolerance, in our country and in our hearts.

I applaud the bi-partisan efforts of Senators Jeffords, Kennedy and Lieberman and Congressmen Shays and Frank to make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act the law. I also thank the members of the Human Rights Campaign and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, whose executive directors joined in our meeting, for their early support and hard work on behalf of this bill. It failed to win passage by only one vote in the Senate last year. My Administration worked hard for its passage then and we will continue our efforts until it becomes law.

Discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation is currently legal in 41 states. Most Americans don’t know that men and women in those states may be fired from their jobs solely because of their sexual orientation, even when it is has no bearing on their job performance. Those who face this kind of job discrimination have no legal recourse, in either our state or federal courts. This is wrong.

Individuals should not be denied a job on the basis of something that has no relationship to their ability to perform their work. Sadly, as the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee has documented during hearings held in the last Congress, this kind of job discrimination is not rare.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is careful to apply certain exemptions. It provides an exemption for small businesses, the Armed Forces, and religious organizations, including schools and other educational institutions that are substantially controlled or supported by religious organizations. This later provision respects the deeply held religious beliefs of many Americans. The bill specifically prohibits preferential treatment on the basis of sexual orientation, including quotas. It does not require employers to provide special benefits.

As I indicated when I originally announced my support of this legislation in October of 1995, the bill in its current form appears to answer all the legitimate objections previously raised against it, while ensuring that Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, can find and keep their jobs based on their ability and the quality of their work. It is designed to protect the rights of all Americans to participate in the job market without fear of unfair discrimination. I support it and I urge all Americans to do so. And I urge Congress to pass it expeditiously.

Letter to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act”


by Bill Clinton
October 19, 1995

Dear Ted:

I am writing in regard to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,
which you and Senator Jeffords have reintroduced in the current session
of Congress.

As you know, discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual
orientation is currently legal in 41 states. Men and women in those
states may be fired from their jobs solely because of their sexual
orientation, even when it has no bearing on their job performance. Those
who face this kind of job discrimination have no legal recourse, in
either our state or federal courts. This is wrong.

Individuals should not be denied a job on the basis of something
that has no relationship to their ability to perform their work. Sadly,
as the Labor and Human Resources Committee documented last year, this
kind of job discrimination is not rare. Cases of job discrimination on
the basis of sexual orientation are seen in every area of our country.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, however, is careful to apply
some exemptions in certain areas. I understand that your bill provides
an exemption for small businesses, the Armed Forces, and religious
organizations, including schools and other educational institutions that
are substantially controlled or supported by religious organizations.
This provision, which I believe is essential, respects the deeply held
religious beliefs of many Americans.

Moreover, your bill specifically prohibits preferential treatment on
the basis of sexual orientation, including quotas. It also does not
require employers to provide special benefits.

The bill, therefore, appears to answer all the legitimate objections
previously raised against it, while ensuring that Americans, regardless
of their sexual orientation, can find and keep their jobs based on their
ability and the quality of their work. The Employment Non-Discrimination
Act is designed to protect the rights of all Americans to participate in
the job market without fear of unfair discrimination. I support it.

Sincerely,
Bill Clinton