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Transgender activist joins Frank's office: Sanchez to serve as senior policy adviser for range of issues


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 rights.

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 a vote.

Sanchez told the Blade that he hopes members of Congress can be persuaded next year to support and advance a trans-inclusive ENDA.

"There's been a lot of tremendous work on the part of many organizations and people to make that a reasonable prediction," he said.

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 committed person." "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 disease.

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.


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Information in this article was accurate in December 26, 2008. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.