4/5/08

Lesbian Politics: U.S. Justice Dept. Fired Attorney for Rumors of Being a Lesbian

Leslie Hagen may or may not be a lesbian, but the U.S. Justice Dept. allegedly fired her over rumors that she might be one.

Why do you care?

In the majority of workplaces in the U.S., that is still legal.



There are two things to consider here; one is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the other is the U.S. attorney-firing scandal.

Prior to ENDA, the legality of being gay in the workplace was a question of states' rights. The following states protected you from being fired if you were gay (not even if you were trans necessarily):


· California
· Colorado
· Connecticut
· Hawaii
· Illinois
· Iowa
· Maine
· Maryland
· Massachusetts
· Minnesota
· New Hampshire
· New Jersey
· New Mexico
· New York
· Rhode Island
· Vermont
· Washington
· Wisconsin
· District of Columbia
· (For everywhere else, it was Screw you, queer!)

The House of Representatives introduced the ENDA bill in April 2007 to protect LGBT folks at the federal level. In September 2007, some politicians got nervous that including protections for trans people might keep the law from passing, so they revised it without trans protections. The new version of the bill, HR 3685, passed.

This is old news in the LGBT community, but we should examine this anew in light of Leslie Hagen's job termination.

Without protections for trans people, no one in the LGBT community is protected by ENDA. Our sexual orientations receive federal protections, but our gender identities do not. What ENDA says in its present form is that so long as gay people act and look like straight people, federal law protects their jobs.

To explain: a femme is a woman who "looks like a woman" by average hetero standards, so that is acceptable in the workplace; a butchie, however, can still be accused of being a woman who "wants to look like a man," which can be considered "inappropriate workplace attire," which still--legally--can result in employment termination under ENDA.

Leslie Hagen's firing occurred before the introduction of ENDA, but consider the following. Hagen was a GOP loyalist in a Republican administration. Her final performance review shows marks of "Outstanding" in every category. The woman who took issue with her, Monica Goodling, was also a Republican--with a J.D. from Regent University (the one founded by Pat Robertson). (If you follow those links, the implication of that becomes pretty clear.) No proof was required for Goodling; the rumor was bad enough. As one Republican source for the NPR story said,

"To some people, [being a lesbian is] even worse than being a Democrat."
And as the investigation continues, Goodling continues to get away with it.

Leslie Hagen was not the only person to be fired under Monica Goodling's scrutiny. The U.S. Justice Dept. under Alberto Gonzales fired seven other U.S. Attorneys under the broad scope of the Patriot Act, and at least two other Attorneys were fired with no explanation at all. These attorneys were Bush appointees who allegedly had plans to investigate the administration and its officers for wrongdoing.

The U.S. Justice Dept. is supposed to be (a) a non-partisan entity and (b) just. With Bush's hijacking of the different branches of government comes the frightening prospects that (a) governing documents will outlaw LGBT freedoms, and (b) the attorneys and judges who would combat our injustices will be silenced.

Keep abreast of ENDA updates here:
The Task Force

And stay on top of the attorney-firing scandal here:
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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

what land of freedom? i wish California was a part of *that*...sigh

Anonymous said...

I'd like to respectfully take issue with a few different points from this article.

First, I think your verdict is a bit premature given the fact that the investigation is ongoing, and that Hagen herself has yet to comment about the investigation. While I recognize the emotional ties the readers and authors of this site have regarding this issue, an allegation is far from proof, and the sourcing for the key points of the NPR story was shoddy at best. I'm not defending the firing, but I do think the more responsible approach would have been more journalistic in nature, withholding judgment until all the facts are in.

Moving on, I fail to see the relevance of the references to Hagen and Gooding as "GOP loyalists". The second-most powerful man in the GOP (arguably the most powerful) has a lesbian daughter whom he is quite proud of, and quick to defend. The notion that most or even a substantial portion of republicans hate gays is simply not accurate. The biggest problem most republicans have with gays is the fact that they consistently vote democrat. Sure, there are some misguided republicans, but they are far from a majority.

Finally, I completely disagree with assertion that "without protections for trans people, no one in the LGBT community is protected by ENDA". This could not be further from the truth.

The big difference between homosexual and bisexual people and transgendered individuals is that by-and-large, and to be quite blunt, most (if not all) transgendered people - whether deliberately or not - put their sexuality on parade in terms of makeup, attire, speech and other not-so-easily definable ways.

Sexuality in any context is inappropriate for 99.9% of workplaces. Corporate lobbyists will fight tooth and nail to prevent a law from passing that would force professional organizations to not only hire transexuals, but also tolerate their rabid sexuality due to the threat of being sued with conflicting precedents if company policies are violated and a contradictory measure exits defining these policies as "discrimination". No business wants to be put in a position to have to employ people who reflect poorly on the organization, especially if the job involves interaction with customers and/or investors.

If the gay rights movement is serious about making progress toward equal rights, it would be wise to distance itself from the transgender crowd.

I don't have anything against transgender individuals, but when considering the reality of the situation, they do freak a lot of people out - the same people who the gay rights movement needs in order to seriously advance its agenda. The continuance of this political alliance works to the direct detriment of the gay rights movement.

I didn't want to come across as being this critical, but I genuinely believe that you damage your own cause with stories like this. Realize that as a publisher, if you take a sensationalist approach, you risk marginalizing the entire movement in the eyes and minds of the general population. Now is the time to be making political friends, not enemies.

Ma'amselle Lezident said...

Your comment is well written and measured, so I feel an urge to respond. What I hear you saying is:

(1) I shouldn't be so quick to carry a story that someone was fired because she might be a lesbian because it's not 100% certain that's why she was fired.

(2) Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter, and Republicans only dislike LGBT people because they vote Democratic.

(3) Transgender people "put their sexuality on parade" (and not just their sexuality, but their "rabid" sexuality), which would reflect poorly on 99% of companies. Therefore, we need to distance ourselves from the transgender community in order to make strategic alliances.

Addressing these in order:

(1) I chose to write about this story as it evoked a couple of timely topics, namely ENDA and the attorney-firing scandal. I think the fact that someone could be fired for being a lesbian--regardless of whom--is worthy of note in this arena. Also, Ms. Hagen was wrongly terminated for whatever the reason; the longer Goodling takes the fifth about why, the easier it is to speculate. To date, I have yet to see any conflicting story about why Ms. Hagen was fired. Whether or not ENDA and the attorney-firing scandal are related remains to be seen, but this story highlighted relevant issues at hand in both, so I commented upon it. (Also, it is true that there is an ongoing investigation, but I have faith neither in the ability nor willingness of the DOJ to thoroughly and meaningfully investigate itself.)

(2) Republicans as a group do not necessarily feel one way or the other about gay people, but deeply religious people tend to have a very serious problem with homosexuals. The Republicans have adeptly exploited this fear and hatred with initiatives to keep gay marriage off ballots and so forth. Let me tell you, gay marriage is not the most salient political issue, and I would rather focus on something else; however, the Republican party consistently uses issues like gay marriage to drum up sentiments of homophobia. "We're the party that oppresses gays, so vote for us!" Whether or not they hate gay people? Debatable. Do they have a notorious record for bringing up anti-gay measures to appeal to an anti-gay base currying communities centered around anti-gay beliefs? You bet.

(3) I disagree with you so strongly on your statements about the transgender community. If you do not understand why a biological man would want to wear a dress, or why a biological female would want to keep her hair super-short and wear a tie, then I bet I will never be able to sufficiently explain it to you. I would venture a guess that you have no transgender friends, because had you any, you would know that there are MTF and FTM people of all stripes as there are gays and lesbians and bisexuals and straight people. I am a biological female who wishes to identify as female, but I feel more comfortable in boys' clothing than I do in women's. Your arguments about forced hirings or conflicting precedents in company policies are quite far-fetched; for instance, no one will ever be forced to hire butchie little me, nor will they ever have to write company policy to accommodate me when I'm there. The issue at hand is a company should not be allowed to fire someone for short hair or for wearing a dress no more than they should be allowed to fire someone for wearing a yarmulke or a cross or Mormon underpants. I would counter your argument that sexuality has no place in a workplace with an argument that religion also has no place in a workplace, yet those forms of self-identification are protected under law. (Incidentally, no companies to my knowledge have undergone forced hirings of religiously diverse people.)

My fight for equality is intrinsically linked with the transgender fight for equality in that we both challenge traditional ideas of gender. If you're telling me we have to make allies by acting more like straight people and less "out," then those allies are no friends to our community. We cannot rely on politicians to create equality for us; our strengths lie in our own numbers and our own cohesion. What the world needs is not fewer transpeople but more exposure to them, and if politicians don't like it, then we'll vote some transpeople into office . . . and I live in CA, where that sort of thing happens!

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