Dear Speaker Pelosi —
I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for your relentless perseverance in the passage of health care reform. Along with President Obama, your steadfast leadership and personal commitment has fundamentally changed the lives of millions of Americans.
You and I have known each other for a long time, since we first met as political organizers in San Francisco. I was proud when you were elected Speaker and proud again on Sunday night when you gave a powerful speech on the floor of the House of Representatives about the meaning of health care reform, eloquently asserting that:
"When it comes to health care for all Americans, 'All politics is personal.' It's personal for the family that wrote to me who had to choose between buying groceries and seeing a doctor. It's personal to the family who was refused coverage because their child had a pre-existing condition…"
This profound statement about the power of politics to change the lives of everyday people touched me deeply. And it reminded me of the opportunity we have right now to transform the lives of Americans again — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
As shocking as it may be to believe in the year 2010, LGBT people can still legally be fired from their jobs in at least 29 states of our country simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That's why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is so vitally important.
Once passed, ENDA would provide to all Americans basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. As my friends at Pride at Work describe it, ENDA is "based on the labor principle that every worker should be judged solely on his or her merits as a worker" and is similar in nature to other federal civil rights laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We've seen the passion you've brought to the challenge of passing health care reform. Now more than ever, we need your passion and skill to achieve the passage of ENDA.
As you know, many Americans in the LGBT community — especially young people — are increasingly frustrated and cynical about the pace of progress in Washington.
We want you to show them that cynicism is not the response at this time. They need to believe in the process, Madame Speaker, and you can restore their faith in this process by moving expeditiously to bring ENDA to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.
I know your values, Madame Speaker, and I know that you strongly support ENDA. Now I want these young people to know what is in your heart.
With the knowledge that health care reform has been achieved and that enough votes now exist in the House today to pass ENDA, will you work with Rep. George Miller, Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, to ensure that ENDA is passed out of committee and brought to the floor of the house immediately?
I am writing this open letter to you and sharing it with my friends in the Courage Campaign and GetEQUAL communities, thousands of whom will sign a petition to you asking that ENDA be prioritized for passage now. You can read the petition — and Americans can sign on to it — here:
Congratulations again on your historic achievement. Along with thousands of other people reading this letter, I wish you the best.
Senior Advisor, Courage Campaign