by Mary Tuma
The group, eight in total, visited Boehner to request his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or ENDA. The perennial legislation, tweaked over the decades, would prevent employers from firing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. (Because, yes, in 2013, you can still get fired for being gay.)
Courtesy of GetEqual Texas Facebook Page.
The activists staged a sit-in after speaking with the representative’s aide, The Huffington Post reports:
A Boehner aide came out and agreed to hear their concerns, at first attempting to move the meeting into the hallway. When they refused, they stood in the lobby and told their stories of why they want the discrimination to end.
"I'm happy to pass along your concerns to the speaker, that you did stop by the office today. We appreciate you coming by. Thanks so much for stopping by," said the aide, who then left the room and shut the door.
The protesters then sat down on the floor and loudly chanted, "We are somebody! We deserve full equality! Right here! Right now!" until they were moved into the hallway by Capitol police. They continued to shout, receiving two more warnings. Then, one by one, they were handcuffed and arrested. Those who refused to stand up were dragged outside.
Six of the members are part of GetEqual Texas, a statewide advocacy group that promotes LGBTQ legal and social equality.
Jennings, a transgendered woman, is part of both the San Antonio Gender Association (SAGA) and GetEqual Texas. It isn’t the first time the San Antonio resident faced arrest for protesting LGBTQ rights– Jennings, along with 12 others, was arrested during a sit-in at state Sen. Robert Duell’s office in May while advocating for Senate Bill 257, a similar state-based Fair Employment Act.
That Act failed to land out of committee and in response, GetEqual has amped up its push to ensure employment equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer citizens, targeting national level legislation, like EDNA.
“If state officials are not going to give us those rights, then it’s now up to our national leaders to protect us,” Jennifer Falcon, organizer of GetEqual Texas in San Antonio told the Current. “We should be able to work legally without discrimination.”
In addition to fighting for national and state-level protections, Falcon and other San Antonio LGBTQ community activists are advocating for the quick passage of a city non-discrimination ordinance, a proposed policy drawing heavy contention.
Michael Divesti, state leader of GetEqual Texas and no stranger to workplace discrimination, told the Current that the group’s efforts, from personal lobbying and petitions to calling on a regular basis are not enough at this point.
"We are now stepping it up a notch to show them we’re serious,” he said.
“The issue is very much about survival. No one can eat without working and when our jobs are on the line simply because of who we are who we love then our survival is threatened.”
Video courtesy of YouTube/Chris Geidner