BARNEY FRANK AND COLLEAGUES TO HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMATION ACT (ENDA)
WASHINGTON — On Wednesday morning, March 30th, Congressman Barney Frank and other prominent Members of the House of Representatives will make an important announcement about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The legislation would extend federal employment laws, which currently prevent job discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability, to also cover sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill applies both to the public and private sectors.
On the night before the event, Frank said that “passing an inclusive ENDA is a difficult but winnable fight – winnable if supported by a serious lobbying effort. The bill we are about to introduce provides an important vehicle for that effort.”
Although some states have passed laws to prevent such discrimination, it is legal in 29 states to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and legal in 38 states to discriminate on the basis of gender identity. According to research by the Williams Institute, there is an ongoing pattern of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity nationwide.
In attendance: Rep. Barney Frank, joined by Rep. George Miller, Rep. Jared Polis and other cosponsors of the legislation. Also present will be representatives of leading LGBT equality, civil rights and social justice organizations.
Well, isn't that special?
Now, Dear Reader, before you burst out of closet and into the corner office, and treat your Boss to a rousing rendition of “I Am What I Am,” maybe take a moment to peruse the ENDA Timeline Of Broken Promises, provided by GetEqual. Well, maybe more than a moment, it's really very long and it begins:
March 14, 1974 — On the fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Rep. Ed Koch (D-NY) introduce H.R. 14752, dubbed the “gay rights bill” or “Equality Act of 1974,” but it fails to make it out of committee. It proposes that new categories of sex, sexual orientation and marital status be added to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Abzug’s version bars anti-gay discrimination in public accommodations and housing, but not transgender protections.
Fast-forward over the next 37 years, much changes, employment and gender expression are added, accommodations lost. It's now 2010, but the song remains the same: “failed to get out of committee.”
This despite a May 2007 Gallup poll, one of many, that showed overwhelming support for the principle of equal job opportunities for lesbian and gay Americans, 89%! Heck, a 2001 Harris poll that showed that 42% of Americans believed such a law already existed.
Look, Congress Critters, I suppose it doesn't hurt anyone if you want to keep doing these little, queer, dog and pony shows, year after year after year. Toss me my rainbow pom-poms! Yay! Go Gay Rights! But the fact remains, we can't help you if you insiders won't tell us; what is the real problem with this frickin' bill?
Because we don't know. What we do know is you had a golden opportunity to finally pass this bill in 2009 and 2010. And all we got were assurances from Rep. Frank, Speaker Pelosi, Jared Polis, Tammy Baldwin, Joe Solomnese and other so-called insiders that “It's coming,” and “It's coming,” and “It's coming,” and “It's coming,” and “It's coming,” and “It's coming,” and “It's coming,” and “It's coming…”
Psst? You know what? It never came. ENDA is the trick from Hell. And it can have its $20 back. We just want a cigarette break now.
Barney? Jared? Joe Solomnese?
We've made the calls, wrote the letters. We've been doing it for years. We've talked our family and friends' ears off. We've talked strangers' ears off, some of us for 37 years. The voters are there. We've turned the public opinion overwhelmingly to the side of equality. That's right! They're there! America's on board with the idea. And we've even resorted to making a nuisance of ourselves to motivate you guys take a vote on it.
Now, you tell us. What more do you need from us?
I'm stumped. I'm not the only one. White House correspondent, and Equality Matters principle and LGBT politico extraordinaire Kerry Eleveld wrote just last month:
Second, although I have asked a good number of questions about ENDA and its prospects for a vote, I still can't tell you why it never happened. Meanwhile, I can recall with decent clarity nearly every twist and turn of the battle to pass “don't ask, don't tell” (DADT) repeal. This is not due to a bias on my part, but is rather indicative of the fact that no one seemed willing to talk with any specificity about what was or wasn't happening with ENDA.
Because, I have to be Frank with you, Frank. When you say you the bill is “winnable if supported by a serious lobbying effort,” a couple things go through my mind. One, you guys can't get a bill passed that consistently polls in the 80%? Why are we sending you guys to DC?
And it's really hard to get ourselves pumped year after year to work for a bill, when it really doesn't seem like anyone in charge is serious about actually passing it. Democrats' well of credibility has run pretty dry on this issue. Yours in particular, Rep. Frank.
Particularly when you yourself spoke to our community just six months ago on the prospect of LGBT legislation passing in Congress under the Republican-controlled House:
“Next year there&r
squo;s no chance of anything happening,” he said of pro-LGBT legislation. “There’s zero chance.”
It was the one time I wasn't skeptical of you. And now you're telling me I have to lobby hard? Maybe you should think about giving the ground troops a year off so you guys in DC can regroup and come up with a serious strategy for actually getting this bill passed. And let us know what you come up with, because this isn't working. I'd suggest some new blood in the leadership. Maybe Anthony Weiner?
For more ENDA news, see also The Bilerico Project. Tico Almeida served as the lead counsel on the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has some interesting history, insights and strategy suggestions there.