Gay Protesters Arrested for Blocking Las Vegas Strip
A group of protestors in Las Vegas calling on Nevada Sen. Harry Reid to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill long contemplated by federal lawmakers that would extend workplace protections to GLBT workers, faced arrest on the afternoon of July 20.
The group rallied at a public roadway, putting up a banner asking Sen. Reid to support ENDA. When a police officer told the group to move on, some resisted the order; eight demonstrators were arrested for obstructing traffic and for disobeying the officer, reported a July 20 article in local publication the Las Vegas Sun.
The group, GetEQUAL, was described in the article as a "direct action group" advocating for GLBT equality. Last March 18, GetEQUAL members staged a sit-in at the Washington, D.C. office of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whom the group demanded vow to support ENDA. The group staged subsequent rallies in support of ENDA across the country.
GetEQUAL has also been active in promoting repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the anti-gay law that prevents openly GLBT soldiers from serving. Among other actions, members of the group heckled President Obama about DADT on April 19, during an appearance by Obama to benefit California Sen. Barbara Boxer. GetEQUAL also organized an April rally in Washington, D.C. during which Lt. Dan Choi and former Army Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II engaged, for the second time, in an act of civil disobedience, protesting DADT by chaining themselves to the fence outside the White House. Choi and Pietrangelo were joined by several other former servicemembers who had been fired for being gay.
The Sun article reported that the Las Vegas rally was "peaceful," despite the arrests. The group’s managing director, Heather Cronk, told the media that lawmakers have deliberated ENDA for more than 35 years, since the bill’s first introduction in 1974. The bill has the support it needs in the House of Representatives, Cronk said, but needs more votes in the Senate--hence the rally’s message to Reid.
Now, she said, it looks like the bill has enough votes in the House, but it is still short in the Senate - a place Reid’s vote can make a difference.
ENDA has had some legislative heavy hitters on its side over the decades, including the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Barney Frank, both of Massachusetts. In 2008, a version of the bill that provided for workplace protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals left out legislative language that would also have protected transgender workers. That version provoked an outcry from the GLBT community at large, even as Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Frank espoused their support for the bill, along with leading LGBT lobby organization The Human Rights Campaign.
Following the outcry, subsequent versions of ENDA have restored language to protect transgender workers.