The two of us come from very different backgrounds, but our queer identities have united us in our call for full LGBTQ equality in all matters governed by civil law.
Unfortunately, the LGBTQ movement has only asked for what we think we can get -- instead of what we deserve. When we talk with some of our members in places like Mississippi or North Carolina, it is very clear to us that LGBTQ people in this country still live through incredible pain. Yet politicians and advocates from the inside the DC Beltway ask us to wait and to be patient. "Change is happening," they say. "It may not be happening as fast as you want it, but it's happening faster than we ever thought possible!"
Waiting is not an option, however, for the single lesbian mother who may lose her child because she can't get or hold a job in her small Southern town. Waiting is not an option for the transgender woman who can't get a driver's license that reflects her gender identity and therefore can't vote. Waiting is not an option for the queer young person who is kicked out of his home and living on the streets this holiday season.
What nerve politicians have when they ask our community to be patient! We cannot be patient when we are told to leave a business because the manager "won't serve your kind." We cannot be patient when our immigrant sisters and brothers are detained at our borders and kept in solitary confinement for months or years. We cannot be patient as politicians introduce and pass legislation they know won't be signed into law -- simply so that they can fundraise for mid-term elections. (Yes, we said it!)
We are deeply proud of GetEQUAL activists who organize in places where the risk is high for standing up for one's humanity. In the absence of federal legislation extending full equality to all LGBTQ Americans, organizing for one's own equality brings the risk of losing a job, personal attacks, or threats to property. They are paying an extraordinarily high cost for our collective freedom -- and we will relentlessly fight for their voices to be heard across this country.
Our vision is very simple -- we dream of the day that LGBTQ people can say, "I am free." From the swamps of Florida to the hills of San Francisco, we seek the day that LGBTQ Americans will be fully equal under the law. We want equal opportunity, equal access, and equal protection under the law -- and we will continue to raise our voices for nothing less.
Yesterday, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate after nearly 20 years of waiting. But the compromise to achieve this great victory has set us back for our future fights. Broad religious exemptions, like the one in ENDA, cement into legislation that our collective American expectation is for religiously affiliated institutions -- even those with tax-exempt status and that receive taxpayer-funded government grants -- to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans.
We heard a lot of nice speeches this week as ENDA was being discussed on the Senate floor -- including a very nice statement from President Obama. But courage begets courage -- speeches are nice, but they are not enough. If President Obama seriously wants the House of Representatives to pass ENDA, he must take the first step and turn his words into action.
The president has taken executive action on an array of issues, such as gun control, immigration, and human trafficking, to bring immediate relief to those who are vulnerable across this great nation. It is not enough for the president to call Congress to act on employment discrimination while he can again take executive action and end LGBTQ workplace discrimination by any company doing business with the federal government.
We are calling on President Obama to set the tone for Washington -- to tell Congress that freedom will not wait on political ambition, and it will not accept the excuses of radical ideology. Even as we continue the drumbeat for full LGBTQ equality under the law, will President Obama take this historic opportunity to protect millions of LGBTQ workers and signal to Congress that he means business? Or will he continue to kick this problem down the road, again telling our community that we should wait for our freedom?
For now, we are left with no other option but to continue pressuring him to use his pen. Now is the time, Mr. President, to end the pain of hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ workers, and to tell Congress -- and the American people -- that you're serious about ending LGBTQ workplace discrimination. As we continue to fight for full equality under the law, now is the time to show our country that waiting is not sufficient. Pick up your pen, Mr. President -- now is the time!