What Should ENDA Be Called?

7.2.2013

By Andrew Belonsky

Michelangelo Signorile says a proposal long in the tooth needs a makeover.

Hot on the heels of last week's monumental Supreme Court decision overturning DOMA, activists and lawmakers in Washington are laying the groundwork for a renewed debate over what's currently called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a proposal that would protect people from being fired simply for being LGBT. ENDA has been debated to various degrees since 1994, but now, after many years languishing on the sidelines, it got some renewed momentum after the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee scheduled a vote on the measure.

The Washington Blade reports that vote will go down on July 10, exactly two weeks after the DOMA decision. And considering that all 12 Democrats on the 22 person panel and Republican Mark Kirk all support ENDA, it's more than likely the committee will recommend a full Senate vote. And as the conversation heats up, many activists, including author and radio host Michelangelo Signorile, are calling for a new messaging campaign, and name, for ENDA.

The cumbersome acronym "ENDA" is as about as alluring as Edna Krabappel. It lacks a certain ring, they say, especially when compared to their suggestion, the Freedom to Work Act. Writing at The Huffington Post today, Signorile called on Chad Griffin and HRC to help make this new name a reality: "It's time for a rebranding. The president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Chad Griffin, following on the success of the "freedom to marry" movement that he helped advance rapidly, should get to work right away and change the name of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which will be voted on in the Senate in coming days, to the "Freedom to Work Act." He credits Tico Almeida from the group Freedom to Work with the inspiration.

Signorile's not alone in asking for an ENDA rebranding. As he points out, Michael Crawford, director of online campaigns for the unrelated group Freedom to Marry, once remarked, in an unofficial capacity, "ENDA is not as new, as sexy, and frankly, I think the branding around ENDA is just terribly bad."

Rather than phrasing the Act as a negative, it needs to be presented as a positive. "Everyone wants to be able to work and take care of their families. Fram[e] it as something the general public can understand and connect to," said Crawford during a discussion at the progressive Netroots conference.

There's no word on whether HRC plans on heeding this call, but Signorile again stresses the "positive impact" point in his final comparison of Employment Non-Discrimination and Freedom to Work: "Many Americans don't like banning this or that entity from doing something, but every American believes in freedom." That's especially true with economic freedoms and opportunities, one of the factors conservatives cite most often when they say they support marriage equality.

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