One short year ago, on Election Day 2012, every member of the Pride Foundation staff, from five western states, started with a 4:00 a.m. wakeup call in Washington. Their goal was to do the final placement of pamphlets, reminding voters to stand up for love and commitment, and to vote to preserve the freedom to marry for all couples in the state. Those memories are still fresh and the momentum to gain complete equality for LGBTQ people continues to gather strength.
That victory in Washington showed us the power that each person, family, neighborhood, book club, and soccer team has to advance equality. It took collective bravery, action, and vision from our community and allies to win. We did not do it alone, and we know the fight continues.
Today, the U.S. Senate is beginning debate on a historic legislative bill—the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA). We ask you to add your voice to a unified movement for change. Call your senators and strongly encourage them to support ENDA. Here is a link to find your elected officials and how to reach them. While you are at it, consider calling your representatives as well.
Why is this important? Right now in 29 states across the nation, lesbians and gay people live, work, pay taxes, and raise families without any statewide protections in the workplace or in housing. That means they can be fired or discriminated against while at work, even kicked out of their homes, just for being who they are. The same is true in 33 states for transgender people. Three of the five states in our region—Alaska, Idaho, and Montana—included.
While seven cities in Idaho and two cities in Montana have passed non-discrimination ordinances to provide basic protections to LGBTQ people, these local ordinances provide only limited geographic protections. In some instances, there are restrictions on who is actually protected under certain circumstances. Furthermore, we’ve already seen backlash from those who opposed fairness in these cities with threats mounting to repeal such ordinances.
Federal legislation to provide employment protections to all LGBTQ people is crucial, especially for people and families living in our region who live every day without safety and surrounded by fear. This is particularly true for almost every transgender worker—according to recent research close to 90 percent of transgender people reported experiencing discrimination / harassment in the workplace.
The Employment Nondiscrimination Act would go a long way in providing necessary and basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, affording all Americans basic employment protections and greater economic security.
So, on this special day—Election Day 2013—please exercise your freedoms and contact your senators now. Let them know how critical ENDA is to your security and safety and for your friends and family. Please also remember to vote. When these moments arise in Congress or in our statehouses, we are reminded how important it is for us to elect candidates that stand in partnership with LGBTQ people, support equality, and believe in the power of diverse voices. This is a unique turning point in the history of our community and for the future we have been building for decades.
Thank you for being a strong part of the fight for equality!
Christina Rocks is Pride Foundation’s Community Giving Manager. Email Christina.