Here We Are In February of 2011 And The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Which Was the First in the Nation to Legalize Same Gender Marriage, Which Defeated Attempts to Take Away These Marriage Rights Through a Ballot Initiative Process and Which Has an Attorney General Who is Suing the United States to End DOMA on Behalf of Its Citizens, Still Has Not Been Able to Pass Legislation Protecting Transgender/Transsexual People Against Workplace, Housing, and Public Accomodations Discrimination
So what is going on in Massachusetts, "The Land of Marriage Equality" with the Transgender Rights Bill which was re-filed last month with the same language it has had for nearly 3 years?Remember even with 104 Co-Sponsors it was not allowed to be voted on in last session (2010) even with majority support in the House and Senate? With public support of the Governor in two terms now, the visible support of parents of transgender/transsexual children, the support of such mainstream religious institutions as the Episcopal Diocese , other localized support through action such as that of the Boston City Council as early as 2002, and all the right pro-active visibility days by the MTPC and Transgender/Transsexual Activists who have real stories to tell about the need for such a law ?
My analogy is that we trying to bake a cake. The recipe is correct, everything is mixed, the batter is in a pan in the oven, the oven works, the temperature button is on. Why don't we have a cake? Because the power company has NOT provided any electricity. The ONLY explanation here is that MA Transgender Rights Bill is being blocked from the top down. Someone or some people are not allowing this bill to move forward, be voted on. This month's bombshell in Boston Spirit Magazine of an interview with former Senator and Bill Co-Sponsor Richard Tisei (R) who blames MassEquality for "losing the public relations battle" on the bill and "dropping the ball" which caused the current situation. Tisei also recounts how he helped set up MassEquality to participate in the MA GOP Convention in 2010 by securing MEQ with a booth there and access to events at the convention including parties for networking. According to Tisei, all this was pre-arranged with MassEquality 3 weeks in advance and the day of the Convention MEQ pulled a 'no-show." Instead of being there to combat the onslaught of what Tisei describes as a Kansas-based anti-trans cellphone campaign directed at over 3500 GOP delegates, MassEquality chose to use that day and Charlie Baker's response to the "Bathroom Bill" messaging immediately for its campaign tool to help Deval Patrick win re-election. But probably the most disturbing of the Tisei revelations he alleges against MassEquality is its lack of lobbying with the co-sponsors. That MassEquality "came at the beginning of the legislative session" when they filed the bill, obtained 104 co-sponsors including himself, and then in 2 years, the co-sponsors "never heard from them again." According to Tisei, "They never called. They never did anything. They never asked for help."
Back in August 2010, after the end of the Legislative Session and with no vote having been taken up on the MA Transgender Rights Bill, KnowThyNeighbor attended JTIMA's Prop 8 Day at Copley Square. I was immediately approached by MEQ volunteers "postcarding" for the MA Trans Bill asking for my email address and if I supported the bill. Outraged I took it up with some of the young volunteers and asked, "where the hell were you for the past year?" Dan Hoffer, a MassEquality hire, originally from the Harold Ford campaign and having worked on the Cape Ann part of our marriage fight, now one who deals with legislative work was immediately put on the defensive and told me, "we have 25-30 legislative campaigns we are working on, we cannot be expected to have worked on the Trans Bill too." So, the Lobby Days, the Hearings, the Press Play, the Visibility---all what I call a Potemkin Village.
According to activist, Denise Leclair, in 2003 Transgender/Transsexual people were told to wait until after Goodridge was done with, then from between 2004 and 2007 were told to wait until after we successfully killed the ballot initiative, then were told to wait until after MA got rid of the 1913 Law which prohibited out of state same sex couples from marrying here if their home states did not recognize their marriages (this repeal was in July of 2008). Were Transgender/Transsexual people told to "wait" for so long that now it is just "company policy" to pretend we are working on their rights instead of being truthful? Equality Maryland has no problem it seems leaving TG/TS people out of the public accommodations part of its bill right now as we speak while having all of the LGB(T) messaging centers like Pam's House Blend, Bilerico Project and others promote this bill like its the new wave of trans support coming from our community. But with MassEquality and its messaging centers I guess it was okay to pretend to be giving priority to our bill instead of being truthful on its mission--providing support for 25-30 legislators. Where was BayWindows or any of the other media, including BlueMassGroup, the various blogs, newspapers etc to get to the bottom of what was holding this bill up? NOTHING from any of them.
And this points to my suggestion to all of you to pause and think about this. I personally do not think MassEquality was calling all the shots here. Oh it was complicit all right. Remember my cake analogy from earlier? MassEquality is not the electric company. It is more the oven. This bill was not voted on because the Speaker of the House and the Senate President, both Dems, would not call a vote. There was no "community outrage" directed at either of these two entities which is in and of itself telling-- so let's go up the ladder a little further...John Walsh, MA Dem Party Chair who may not have wanted to lose any votes in various races for Dems? We are being told that many Dems would have taken a hit on this bill. Which I find funny because, 104 leges co-sponsored the bill in a very public record...where was their "hit?" Are we expected to believe that the anti-lgbt groups would make a distinction between sponsorship and voting in their anti-trans messaging? Another thing to note here, in Twelve States and the District of Columbia, where Gender Identity and Expression are part of the anti-discrimination laws, not one state produced a ballot initiative directed to remove these laws by popular vote. So what was the problem? Inquiring minds, pissed off activists like myself and transgender/trannsexual people who have been back-burnered and betrayed want to know.
We still have not been able to identify the man or people behind the curtain, though we can now easily see what room the curtain is hanging in. I throw this out there...Maybe the ladder goes up a little higher to Congress where our own Barney Frank who once removed transgender/transsexual people from the languishing ENDA Bill, has been saying recently that you cannot expect to get a anti-discrimination bill which includes gender identity and expression passed in Congress if you cannot even get it passed in a state like Massachusetts. But my question to Congressman Frank is this..."on that comment, are you stating fact or projecting?"
Tom Lang, Director of KnowThyNeighbor.org