Washington Blade - December 26, 2008
Diego Sanchez, who recently accepted a job as Rep. Barney Frank's
(D-Mass.) senior policy adviser, said he admires the gay
congressman's work on issues concerning health care and gay
And one year after Congress debated the Employment
Non-Discrimination Act, Sanchez said Frank has expressed a desire
to pass a bill that bars discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity. Frank backed a version of ENDA
last year that omitted gender identity, a so-called "gay" version
of the bill that passed the House but never made it to the
Senate. Frank was excoriated by trans activists at the time.
"It is never a delight to be left out of anything, and I think
the actions taken in 2007, well, that was very painful," Sanchez
said. "But I believe that everyone took the bill as far as they
could at the time."
Congressional leaders told gay and transgender activists in
October 2007 that lawmakers would concentrate on the version of
ENDA that omitted protections for trans workers because there
were not sufficient votes to pass a trans-inclusive measure.
Frank, who introduced the gay-only version, said at the time that
pushing the more inclusive version would do more harm than good.
"Forcing a vote on transgender inclusion now, which would,
without any question, result in a majority against it, would make
it harder to win when we have done better in our educational
work, because members who vote no now will be harder to persuade
to switch their votes than to persuade them to vote yes in the
first instance," he said.
House members voted 235-184 in November 2007 to pass the gay-only
version. The bill foundered in the Senate, though, and never saw
Sanchez told the Blade that he hopes members of Congress can be
persuaded next year to support and advance a trans-inclusive
"There's been a lot of tremendous work on the part of many
organizations and people to make that a reasonable prediction,"
To help make the case, Sanchez, 51, is leaving his job as
director of public relations and external affairs at the AIDS
Action Committee in Massachusetts and AIDS Action Council in D.C.
He'll be part of Frank's D.C. office when it reopens in January.
Rebecca Haag, president of the Massachusetts and D.C. AIDS
organizations, said that Sanchez, who
has worked for her for about five years, is a "bright, very
"He has a really extensive background in business, public
relations and communications, so when I needed a head of PR, he
seemed like a really obvious choice to me," she said.
Haag said that Sanchez has helped to keep HIV and AIDS issues at
the forefront in Massachusetts and has played a key role in
launching publicity for a national strategy to combat the
Sanchez said his 15-year background in activism and advocacy for
health care and gay-rights issues - coupled with his professional
experience - have prepared him for his new job.
Sanchez said he's lobbied members of Congress and their staffs on
a national AIDS strategy, ENDA and hate crimes. In his new
position, he will be responsible for advising Frank on gay,
health care, veterans and labor issues and the Census. For the
2010 Census, Sanchez will be working to make sure that same-sex
couples are recognized as families.
Sanchez will begin his new job in Frank's office on Jan. 6, and
said he's looking forward to the move to D.C.
"I'm thrilled that someone with Diego's knowledge about HIV/AIDS
and the social justice issues surrounding GLBT people will be
working with one of the biggest champions of civil rights for
GLBT people," Haag said.