How to Counter Religious Right Lies about ENDA

Republished with permission from

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

By Alvin McEwen

This year, there is a good chance that Congress could pass a transgender-inclusive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act).

However, not if the American Family Association can help it.

I found some talking points from the religious right group regarding ENDA. They are nothing more than evasions and appeals to fears about “gay sex” and “men invading women’s restrooms.”

I am posting the talking points and including a refutation with each one:

AFA – ENDA (H.R. 2981 – H.R. 3017 – S. 1584) has been changed from the “gay-only” version the House passed in 2007 to include language banning job discrimination based on “gender identity” as well as sexual orientation – complete with special protections for the transgendered. It would mean your child’s teacher, if he were a male but “felt” like a female, could go into the women’s bathroom.

RefutationThere have been many transgender-inclusive job discrimination bills passed statewide and citywide (including my city of Columbia, SC) but there has NEVER been a case of a man “claiming to feel like a female” invading women’s bathrooms.

AFA – ENDA is aimed at providing heightened protections for a particular sexual behavior – homosexuality. It would grant special consideration on the basis of “sexual orientation” that would not be extended to other employees in the workplace.

Refutation Potential employees are already federally protected in the case of race, religion, gender, and national origin. Adding sexual orientation does not single out gays and lesbians any more than gender singles out solely women or men.

AFA – ENDA violates employers’ and employees’ Constitutional freedoms of religion, speech and association. The proposed legislation would prohibit employers from taking their deeply held beliefs into account when making personnel decisions. This would pose an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into people’s lives.

RefutationTranslation: If a manager at a restaurant has a “deeply held belief” that homosexuality is a sin, he or she should have the right to fire an lgbt employee; at least that is what the AFA believes. However “deeply held beliefs” are no excuse for discrimination of any stripe. Also one could argue there is already “federal intrusion” in people’s lives with the protections in the cases of race, religion, gender, and national origin.

AFA – ENDA would approvingly bring private behavior considered immoral by many into the public square. By declaring that all sexual preferences are equally valid, ENDA would change national policy supporting marriage and family.

RefutationBy private behavior, AFA is implying sexual behavior. ENDA says nothing about sexual behavior. If “national policy supporting marriage and family” is changed, then it is a good thing. Not all families are heterosexually-oriented. Also, several states already offer lgbts the right to marry. A national policy regarding families and marriage should embrace this change rather than adhere to someone’s narrow view of family and marriage.

AFA – HRC claims that ENDA does not apply to religious organizations, but the 2007 version of the law only provided a religious exemption for religious positions that were involved in actual teaching or proclamation of doctrine. Such a limited exemption, some pro-family legal experts argue, would mean that a Christian school that was hiring a secretary, janitor or football coach would not be allowed to reject a homosexual who applied for the slot.

Refutation That’s simply not true. This version of ENDA has a more detailed explanation of religious exemptions (Section 6).

This was the same detailed exemptions included in the 2007 version of ENDA. An article in the Roundtable of Religion and Social Welfare Policy described the exemptions as followed:

“ENDA has three subsections with specific exemptions for religious organizations. The first says the law will not apply to a religious organization or educational institution that has a “primary purpose” to teach religion or spread doctrine. This would include houses of worship, parochial schools, and religious missions.

Institutions that would not be wholly exempted by this first subsection include schools, universities, hospitals and social service agencies operated by religious organizations but that do not have a primary purpose of teaching religion.

The second subsection excludes employees whose “primary” duty is to spread religious doctrine and involves spiritual teaching or ministerial governance. This would include chaplains and teachers of nonreligious subjects, even if they work at institutions that are not exempted such as hospitals, social service agencies or universities.

With respect to other employees, the third subsection says the religious institutions that are not exempt may still require workers to conform to the institution’s religious beliefs about sexual orientation. For example, the bill would allow a religiously-affiliated hospital to refuse to hire or to fire doctors and nurses who engage in same-sex conduct.”

Even with these talking points, the battle to pass ENDA is still half done. As we have seen with the health care town hall meetings last month, it’s not just about having the correct information, it’s about the ability to be able to get your information out there and define the argument.

And the religious right with their allies on the blogs and Fox News won’t make this easy.

If the lgbt community and our allies are to get ENDA passed, we have to not only know how to counter the lies but be able to weave our way through the intricasies of how these lies are spread.

And we need to start getting ready now.

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Gender Stereotyping of Women and Caster Semenya

I’ve been really grossed out by the treatment of Caster Semenya by the press and even more so by some of the know everythings among TS/TG/IS folks.

One of the main virtues of being old and having lived a life of awareness of the reinforcement of gender rules, sexism, and misogyny is the aspect of seeing patterns repeat.

This is particularly true of women in sports, where the best and strongest actually have muscles that show and invariably have their femaleness questioned because of it.  Some of this is geopolitical as in the case of the USA questioning the femaleness of the athletes of communist nations while holding their own very strong women up as delicate flowers of femininity.

When femininity is often a matter of class, clothes and make-up with the rich elites invariably being better at it than the working class.  Access to the expensive clothes, jewelry and make-up applied by artists is certainly a leg up on that one.

When the Williams sisters hit the Professional Women’s Tennis Circuit some 10 years back they too created a stir.  Strong African American women who had been coached by their father and learned to play on public courts.  Of course it is rare for American women athletes to actually have their sex questioned.  What is far more common is for their femininity to be questioned with the implication of lesbianism, as though lesbians are not “real women”.

None of this nonsense should be considered the same as steroid testing, which is a different matter that gives those doping with ‘roids (both male and female) an unfair advantage over those who are not using steroids.

It was inevitable that South African runner Caster Semenya would be required to undergo sex determination testing.  I am of the opinion that such testing should be based on a quick look and not on some sort of chromosomal thing since enviromental contamination by industrial pollution has caused all sort of mischief with chromosomes.

Far more important to me would be those tests for steroids and testosterone because over the years there has actually been very few intersex people discovered in women’s sports there have been numerous cases of steroid usage.  The female body builders of about 1980 come to mind.

For what it is worth Caster Semenya is biologically female.

What she isn’t is stereotypically feminine.  (A heads up to Courtney at Feministing for the picture of “You” magazine).

Female athletes are palatable only if they are stereotypically feminine.  Black women have had to deal with the stereotypes of feminine being racist in that they are most often white.  In terms of femininity the whiter the better.  Elaine Brown writes about this paradigm in her book A Taste of Power:  A Black Woman’s Story.

So now comes the recasting of Caster.  Out comes the jewelry, the fashion, the artist applied make-up because it is okay to be the fastest woman alive, just as it is okay to be female and hit a 130 MPH serve or consistently drop shots from outside the three point line or even slam dunk just so long as one does the feminine gender thing as well.

One of my main objections to those presenting the transgender ideological arguments has been that they require people to fit stereotypes either feminine or masculine in order to be considered legitimate members not of that sex but of that gender.  I think it better to argue for the right to not conform than to argue for the requirement of conformity to a stereotype.

I see it as sad when wonderfully strong women, the athletic best of the best are pulled from their courts, tracks,starting blocks and shoved into shoes they could never run in, into clothes that restrict the beauty of their physical ability in order that they might reinforce the universiality of feminine stereotypes of women as weak dainty ornaments.


“Wow Look at Caster Now!  We Turn SA’s Power Girl into a Glamour Girl–and She Loves it!”

Ah yes because being a natural woman is so undesirable that even the fastest woman in the world would rather be an object than an achiever.