Chicago, IL – May 20, 2010 - As part of a broad strategy to gain a vote on ENDA this year, a group of thirteen Chicago activists have been arrested after a sit-in in Senator Richard J. Durbin’s office. The sit-in was initiated due to the Senator’s lack of response regarding a pledge that a coalition of activist groups sent to the Senator for signature. The pledge (in its entirety below) affirms his commitment to a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and forceful advocacy of the bill before the Media and Senate. The ‘form letter’ response received from the Senator via email did state his support for ENDA, but does not mention transgender protections as part of the bill he supports:
In each of the last several Congresses, I have joined Senator Ted Kennedy as an original cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This measure would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Specifically, it would make it unlawful for employers to discharge or refuse to hire any individual, or limit any individual’s employment opportunities, based on that person’s sexual orientation.
The activists arrived in Senator Durbin’s office at noon during a protest in support of ENDA that was taking place in front of the Federal Building. With the pledge in hand they arrived and stated they would not leave until the Senator signed the pledge. The Senator was not in the Chicago office and when the group asked to speak to the Senator via phone, they were told “that is not possible.” They refused to leave until the pledge was signed. The staffer then called the Federal authorities to have them removed from the office.
“I am here because we can no longer sit around and wait for our rights to be handed to us by politicians, we must demand our rights from them,” said Lindsey Dietzler of LGBT Change and one of those arrested. “We have to be here to fight for those who are forced to remain invisible and deny who they are just to make a living. I want Senator Durbin to know that until there is full federal equality for every queer citizen, no one in this country is free.”
The activists arrested are: Andrea Crain, Kevin Connaghan, Lindsey Dietzler, Roger Fraser, Judy Heithmar, Brent Holman-Gomez, Nik Maciejewski, Rachael McIntosh, Corrine Mina, Michael Oboza, Samantha Pajor, Sherry Wolf, Danelle Wylder.
“The LGBTQ community has stepped up to the plate and done our part. We gave votes, money, and countless hours of volunteer work to elect a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and put a Democrat in the White House,” said Andrea Crain of Join the Impact Chicago. “We have lobbied our representatives and educated the public. We were told to wait until after the health care bill passed, and it has passed. We did our work, now Senator Durbin must do his!”
We call on the community to stand in solidarity with those who have been arrested by signing our petition asking Senator Richard Durbin, the second highest ranking Senator in the Senate, to become a forceful advocate for an ENDA vote this year: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/PASS-ENDA-NOW. Please also contact Senator Durbin at his office at (312) 353-4952 and tell him to help get ENDA passed this year!
I, Senator Richard Durbin, agree to stand before my colleagues in the U.S. Senate and the media to forcefully declare the urgent need for a transgender-inclusive ENDA in 2010. While all LGBTQ people in this country remain second-class citizens, it is a crisis that 97 percent of transgender people, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, have experienced mistreatment, harassment or discrimination on the job.
Federally-sanctioned discrimination of the millions of U.S. workers who are sexual minorities must finally pass into history. The time is now to stop the lies, the scapegoating and the bigotry against those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. I appeal to my colleagues in the Senate to end our sad history of anti-LGBTQ bigotry and pass a transgender-inclusive ENDA in 2010.