Monday, November 05, 2007

ENDA Heading to Floor This Week

Gay City News ( is reporting that the House Rules Committee voted early in the evening on November 5 to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the floor for a vote, and to permit consideration of three amendments, including Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin's proposal to restore transgender protections to the bill. The Baldwin amendment will get ten minutes for debate.

As I have indicated before, I believe it is critical to get some version of ENDA passed by Congress and delivered to the Chimperator. If he vetoes it, fine. His action will be contrary to the views of over 65% of voters who believe that gays should be protected from employment discrimination. Let the Chimperator further define the GOP as the party of Christianist wingnuts. Meanwhile, I think Tammy Baldwin is playing a dangerous game that runs the risk of a massive recorded vote against the inclusion of transgendered individuals. That could set their cause backward for years.

I also take great offense at Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Roberta Sklar, a spokeswoman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force saying "It's unfortunate that leadership would continue to try to pass a bill that the LGBT community has said it doesn't want." These individuals and their groups DO NOT SPEAK FOR ME. Better that Barney Frank's less all inclusive version pass Congress than nothing pass. Bush and the GOP need to be put on the spot with this legislation. Here are some story highlights:

Consideration of the bill by Rules signals leadership's conclusion that it has the votes to win passage on the floor, in spite of the potential for defection by an unknown number of Democrats insisting that only an ENDA that includes protections for gender identity and expression be moved. Floor action on ENDA could come as early as Tuesday, but is clearly expected some day this week.

The Committee will also consider whether an amendment from out lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, to add transgender protections back into the bill, will be heard on the floor as well. Baldwin, originally Frank's co-lead sponsor on ENDA, declined to put her name on his revised measure, urging instead that the original, fully-inclusive bill be taken up by the House.

Baldwin has apparently made limited headway in wooing colleagues to support the inclusion of transgender protections, and ironically her measure, if put to a vote, would create precisely the framework that Frank warned against when he advised a narrower formulation of the bill. His fear was that Republicans would put up a mirror-image amendment to Baldwin's, stripping out transgender protections.

Given the risk that Baldwin's amendment might fall well short of a majority, the assumption among activists is that she will withdraw it if a decent show of votes cannot be achieved. A well-placed Democratic congressional aide told Gay City News last week that the amendment would be debated on the floor, but then withdrawn by Baldwin prior to a vote.

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