Guest Blog: Rep. Yvette Clarke

BHB is pleased to have Rep. Yvette Clarke (D- 11th Congressional District) as a guest blogger. Today the U.S. House of Representative passed the ENDA (The Employment Non Discrimination Act), which gives Gay and Lesbian Americans equal protection under the law. A provision to include Transgendered individuals was removed from the legislation by Rep. Barney Frank, who is gay. Frank reportedly he feared that the stipulation would jeopardize the entire bill. 

In what can be seen as a bold move, Rep. Clarke broke party lines and voted NO to the revised bill. Here, she explains her position:

As we evolve as a society it is important for us to remember the importance of the diversity that contributes to all that makes this nation great! 

The Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) comes at a pivotal time in our society.  Over the past year we’ve seen an unconscionable increase in the number of hate crimes being committed across our nation.  These insensitive and harmful acts are a constant reminder that we still have a lot to learn about valuing all of humanity. 

I am deeply saddened today that the transgender community is being overlooked in this non-inclusive version of ENDA. Because of this exclusion, I must vote NO on H.R. 3685.

As you know I represent the 11th Congressional District of New York.  In my hometown of Brooklyn, we have local laws which protect both sexual orientation and gender identity, which is why it is very difficult for me to support this bill in its current form.  

In my district, I am fortunate to have individuals who are integral parts of the community– some of whom are members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

The L-G-B-T community has been historically, institutionally, and categorically denied equal protection under the law.   I for one am not comfortable continuing that pattern.

It would be unprecedented for Congress to pass a civil rights bill that is solidly opposed by the very community that it is meant to protect! 

I cannot in good faith and with a clear conscious vote yes on a piece of legislation that would continue to leave one group of Americans behind in their quest for equality.  

I believe our pledge of allegiance says it best “with liberty and justice for all.”

Rep. Yvette Clark (D) represents Brooklyn's 11th Congressional District which includes parts of Brooklyn Heights.

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  • Alan

    Representative Clark, thank you for sharing your views. I am in Representative Velazquez’s part of Brooklyn Heights, so I guess you shouldn’t take the following as being a constituent comment.

    I do fully respect your feelings concerning ENDA, and I strongly believe that it should cover all LGBT Americans, however, I also think that “the perfect” should not be the enemy of “the good”. I suppose that it does not matter in this case, since ENDA will pass anyway, but I think it makes sense for politicians in all cases to fight hard for all that they think is right, while at the same time being able to accept those advances that are possible at the time.

    Despite my minor difference of opinion, thank you for continuing to fight for all your constituents and all Americans.

  • Micky

    Instead of making this useless gesture, perhaps you could have just seen ENDA as an interim measure, united the Democrats and a number of the Republicans who voted for the bill and had chance at overriding the President’s veto? Instead, you and Rep. Nadler, among others, have helped to fracture the left and have thereby essentially doomed this law.

  • DB

    Rep. Clarke, a few questions:

    Having made your objections to the ENDA known, would you vote for the bill in its present form if it passes the Senate and if the President follows through on his veto threat?

    As a fellow constituent of Senator Schumer, do you agree with his decision to vote to send the nomination of Judge Mukasey to be the attorney general to the full Senate?

    What steps are you or the House Democratic leadership taking to revive S-Chip funding or to pass legislative time-tables for troop withdrawals?

    What septs are you or the House Democratic leadership taking to prevent President Bush from commencing military action against Iran?

    You supported the Atlantic Yards development. Does the lawsuit by MIT against Frank Gehry affect your support?

    How does working in Washington compare to Brooklyn?

  • steve

    On ENDA, I think the NY Times got it right in an editorial today.
    “Winning a majority in the House required a painful decision by the bill’s sponsors to jettison language extending the prohibition against employment discrimination to transgender individuals. As a result, some gay rights groups opposed the final bill.
    We sympathize with the groups’ sense of injustice, but disagree heartily as to strategy. Transgender people should be protected from discrimination, and we hope they soon will be. It would have been regrettable, however, had the sponsors refused to compromise, and as a result, lost the chance to extend basic civil rights to the millions of Americans who would be covered by the current bill.
    Throughout American history, civil rights have been achieved in incremental steps. The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, barred race discrimination in public accommodations, an enormous step forward at the time. It wasn’t until the next year that Congress protected voting rights in a separate bill.”

  • Danielle

    Rep. Clarke,

    I am a transgender woman, born and raised in Brooklyn. Thank you for the moral courage to articulate your support for liberty for all, including those who are transgender.

    The most difficult part of the recent ENDA proceedings is that a deliberate decision was made to remove protections for transgender people after it had been included in the draft of the bill in committee. It was, in effect, a decision in support of continued legal discrimination against transgendered- a decision by those we’d expect otherwise from – instead of mustering the moral courage to do the right thing – not stant for injustice, discrimination unfairly against any human being – that they be judged by the content of their character and their skills and work performance.

    Even Rush Limbaugh did not miss this fact:

    “But it left out the transgenders! It left out the transsexuals, and they’re casting this as a civil rights issue. The transgenders and transsexuals were told by the House of Representatives to go to the back of the bus. “

  • http://www.tortdeform.com/archives/2007/11/protecting_americans_against_e.html Kia

    Thank you for your courageous post and your courageous stance on this bill. I agree that we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, as one commenter noted, but in this instance the “perfect” would be a world where this type of legislation isn’t even necessary, and the “good” would have been legislation that offered protection to the people who need it the most rather than offering them as the sacrificial lamb. Your stance was difficult but principled and respectable, something that we see far too infrequently. Go Brooklyn!!

  • Heloise Rathbone

    Thank you for taking this strong stand in support of Transgender people. We are growing as a nation and more and more we are accepting more diversity. I appreciate that you are helping to extend acceptance to the Trans community. I am proud to be in a congressional district with you in the leadership on this issue.