Trans-rights activists picket Friday across from the Westin Hotel, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke. Photo by Nila Latimore
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's, D-Calif., visit to Chicago on Oct. 19 did not go unnoticed. Trans-rights activists from as far as Ohio joined over a dozen other supporters outside the Westin Hotel, 909 N. Michigan, to ask Pelosi to support an amendment introduced by Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., last week that calls for a trans-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ) .
Several local organizations, including Equality Illinois and the Gay Liberation Network, supported the protest outside the hotel where Pelosi was scheduled to speak at a private Democratic fundraiser. Pelosi came under fire when she backed a version of ENDA that excludes gender identity.
'I felt betrayed,' said Julie Nemecek—one of several transgender activists present at the rally—when she heard about Pelosi's support for the version of ENDA that excludes trans individuals. Nemecek was fired last May from Spring Arbor University in Michigan ( where she taught for 16 years ) after announcing her gender-identity change. Nemecek proudly sported a sign outside the hotel, 'Pelosi Math: Prof. + Trans. = Fired.'
'We all need protection in the workplace,' Chicago trans activist June LaTrobe said over a loudspeaker. 'This is a rally for a truly inclusive ENDA, not a protest against anyone or anything.'
Participants sent a message from over 300 national and statewide LGBT groups: ENDA is for all. After Baldwin announced her amendment, openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., issued a statement urging his colleagues to support Baldwin's amendment. As the rally subsided, Pelosi remained inside before making a quick exit. Pelosi refused to answer questions as she left the Westin Hotel.
To see the Oct. 19 statement issued by Illinois Gender Advocates regarding ENDA and Baldwin's pending amendment, see www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com .