Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Congressional First

At Pam's blog, Autumn Sandeen gives her reaction to the historic hearing by the House Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on the topic of workplace discrimination against the transgendered -- the first hearing of its kind in Congressional history. The hearing was chaired by Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), who recently attempted to unseat Senator Robert Torricelli in the state's Democratic primary -- running to Torricelli's right. Andrews still reportedly has his eyes on higher office in the Garden State, and this might be a way of repairing his reputation amongst mainline liberals. If so, this is a good start: I attended the hearing as well, and I can say that Rep. Andrews absolutely shined.

For the most part, though, my reactions were the same as Sandeen's. The main conservative witness, Glen Lavy of the Alliance Defense Fund, was surprisingly weak. I don't mean substantively -- obviously, there is nothing he could have said that would have persuaded me. But he was just not an impressive witness. He was inarticulate, he paused for long periods, and he looked utterly baffled (if not on the verge of tears) under cross-examination by Rep. Andrews -- questioning that, while tough, was hardly making unexpected points (how is this sort of discrimination different than that of race? Discriminating against veterans? Religious people? Lavy looked like the concept that one might believe bad things on religious grounds was a horrifying and earth-shattering revelation to him).

I also concur with Sandeen that the hearing's star witness was retired Army Colonel Diane Schroer. A former Special Forces operative and expert in counter-insurgency, Schroer went from getting a new job with the Congressional Research Service in her primary field of speciality, to being a "bad fit" for it, in the 24 hours in which she told her new boss she was transitioning from male to female. As a country, we simply cannot afford to lose unbelievably talented patriots like Col. Schroer, and she hit home with devastating effectiveness both the moral and social costs of maintaining our current discrimination-friendly environment.

It is worth noting, finally, that all the questioning in the hearing was done by Democrats save one -- Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the ranking minority member and my Congressman when I was registered at Carleton. Kudos to him for showing up, and also kudos for asking reasonable questions -- albeit to one of the two conservative witnesses. But none of the Republicans on the committee had the guts to tell any of the majority witnesses -- many who were transgendered themselves -- that their social exclusion was justified. That's telling -- though I suspect only of an eventual hypocrisy.

Oh, and the Traditional Values Coalition, ever the classy organization, distributed this press release (at the commitee, no less!): "Americans Face Energy Crisis While House Of Representatives Holds A She-Male Hearing!"

Yes, these are the folks that are vested with defending "family values."

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