Friday, September 28, 2007

ENDA update

Whether or not the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) remains trans-inclusive appears to still be up in the air. There are strong indications, though, that it may very well become a bill that provides workplace protections based just on sexual orientation with a new stand-alone bill being introduced that provides workplace protections based upon gender identity. The first would be voted on next week in the House of Representatives and the second would be on a "to-be-determined" track.

Again, though, the situation is still somewhat fluid, even though the Washington Post said today in an editorial that two separate bills are about to be introduced in the House Education and Labor Committee. We know for a fact that there are a number of efforts continuing today to try to keep ENDA trans-inclusive.

To make sure Congress understands that many in the LGBT community are against this, the Pride Agenda and many other LGBT organizations around the country have sent action alerts to their supporters urging them to contact their U.S. Representative to let them know they’re opposed to an ENDA without trans protections.

Yesterday, when it became apparent that an effort was underway to strip the gender identity piece out of ENDA, a number of groups sprang to action. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force coordinated and issued a statement on behalf of nine national LGBT groups. Ours came out minutes later. Other statewide groups like Garden State Equality and Equality Texas also issues statements yesterday. These twelve groups represented the first to go public about their opposition to passing ENDA without being trans inclusive. More statements have come out today and we know more will be issued on Monday.

This morning, The Advocate posted an article quoting HRC’s Brad Luna saying "The indication we are getting from the Hill is that the leadership will possibly move forward with a new version of ENDA that does not offer explicit protections for gender identity.” Luna also expressed HRC’s disappointment at the decision.

Steven Adamske in Congressman Barney Frank’s office has said, “My boss’s recommendation is to go forward with an historic ENDA bill and then, in the very near future, work on improving that bill, as has been done with every single civil rights bill that has been passed in the last 40 years.” Apparently Frank believes a trans-inclusive ENDA will result in a nasty floor debate and provide a wedge issue to Republicans.

For the record, more than a third of the U.S. population currently lives in a state or locality that provides workplace and other protections based upon gender identity and expression, including red state cities like Dallas, Tucson and Cincinnati. Here in New York State, 53% or 10 million New Yorkers live in localities with these protections. Fortune 500 companies are certainly no stranger to workplace protections based upon gender identity and expression – 152 of the 500 have them and the number keeps spiking up every year.

There is no controversy in any of the states, localities and companies that have done the right thing. No elected officials or corporate executives have lost their jobs -- to our recollection -- for doing this.

Congress should take it lead from the ho-hum reaction a third of the country has given to living in jurisdictions where there are protections based upon gender identity and expression. Right now, sadly, it seems that those who have gotten it in their heads the voters won’t go for this haven’t paid much attention to what the facts say around the country.

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