A.P.B.: ENDA trans discrimination on hold

Much afoot about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. I’m too slow-moving a craft to do much justice to breaking news (more cruise ship than speedboat), but I definitely want to alert readers not already more abreast than me to what’s up with this bill.

The ENDA is a proposed U.S. federal law, along the lines of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Early attempts to propose a full-blown civil rights bill for LGB folk — Bella Abzug and Ed Koch’s 1974 “Gay Rights Bill,” HR 14752 — would have added “sexual orientation” to the Civil Rights Act. In the early 1990s, though, attempts for full civil rights protections were scaled back to employment protections, and this is what we’ve got going at the moment. (Wiki synopsis here.)

ENDA was introduced in April of this year, and has snaked its way through political process to the point where we now find it, sweating under the glare of the bright lights, the transphobia and compromise-readiness of some of its handlers all hanging out for everyone to see. The battle has now shifted from attempts to get the ENDA out of committee and to a vote before the House of Representatives, to attempts to stave off the evisceration of transgender people from the historic bill. Because last week, House Speaker Nanci Pelosi and Representative Barney Frank put forth a version of the bill strategically omitting protections against employment discriminations based on gender identity, on the logic that it would have a better chance of passing.


The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued a letter to house representatives conveying the conviction of nearly 100 regional and national LGBT organizations that the bill not go forth without protection for transgenders. Here’s the Washington Blade synopsis:

Following a groundswell of opposition from gay activists, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) late Monday put the brakes on plans to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, to a vote in the House in the next two weeks without protections for transgender persons.

Pelosi’s action came after representatives of more than 90 prominent national and state gay and transgender rights organizations presented her and all members of Congress with a petition expressing strong opposition to any version of ENDA that does not include transgender protections.

In a joint statement released by her office, Pelosi, Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), the two openly gay members of Congress, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chair of the committee with jurisdiction over ENDA, announced they would complete a final draft of the bill “later this month.”

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that Pelosi’s office first issued a statement on Monday in which Pelosi “declared her personal support for including transgender people in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act but asserted she would stick by her decision to drop them from the bill to give it a greater chance of passage.” But then:

About three hours later, the speaker issued a new statement saying, “After discussions with congressional leaders and organizations supporting passage” of the bill, committee and floor votes on the bill had been postponed to “allow proponents of the legislation to continue their discussions with members in the interest of passing the broadest possible bill.”

Matt Foreman of NGLTF issued a statement in response to the postponement:

Our community must continue to weigh in with every member of Congress, letting them know of our insistence that a fully inclusive ENDA must pass the House this year. This effort is all the more important with the leadership’s statement that leaves open which version of ENDA will advance. Just as we have for the last few days, we must signal loud and clear to every member of Congress: We are one community and we demand protections for all of us. Nothing else will suffice.

How to do that? Visit NGLTF’s ENDA Action Center, and read up on it. Contact your representative (if you’re a US resident), or use NGLTF’s e-z pre-fab email page to express your insistance that any ENDA bill include transgender people (Note: you’ll have to fix the text a little, since it was created before the Monday afternoon postponement. Later note: Fixed!). And sign your name to this petition by National Stonewall Democrats, who’ll pass it on to congress. [Later addition: Human Rights Campaign has clambered on board the fast-moving trans-inclusion train, and issued this email petition page. So sign that one, too!]

The take home message: We have about two weeks to impress upon our congressional representatives that they should:

    a) Support the original ENDA (HR 2015) which includes gender identity and
    b) oppose any effort to advance a substitute bill that does not include gender identity.

Go dog,go!

[Later note: for some backstory on debates over ENDA’s trans-exclusion, look to Pam Spaulding’s round-up last Sunday.]

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