November 05, 2007
ENDA back from the dead
Posted by: Chris
Just when it looked like the divisively named United ENDA crowd had killed historic workplace protections for GLB Americans, the compromise version pressed by Barney Frank appears back from the dead and scheduled for a House vote this week. Gay City News is reporting that a headcount apparently shows enough votes for ENDA to pass the House in a form that only protects "actual or perceived sexual orientation" and not "gender identity" as well.
Given the expected defections of purist liberals like Dennis Kucinich, it will ironically take Republican votes to pass a gay civil rights bill for the first time through the U.S. House of Representatives. (The actual number of defectors is said to range between 8 and 60, GCN reports.) The irony doesn't end there — the United ENDA groups, led by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, have actively worked to defeat ENDA stripped of its transgender protections.
The Human Rights Campaign has dutifully straddled the fence, not lobbying for or against the very same bill it pressed for a decade as its signature legislation, and has apparently promised not to count a vote for the compromise ENDA as a mark against House members on the group's annual congressional report card. Smell the irony.
Another bit of parliamentary weirdness reported by GCN relates to Tammy Baldwin's amendment to add "gender identity" back in to ENDA. At first, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a floor vote on the Baldwin amendment, but then apparently recanted when House freshmen objected to the vote as no-win, since defying conservatives on trans rights will only anger the left if the amendment fails and they vote in favor of the gay-only bill.
So the solution is being worked out in the Rules Committee but will involve Baldwin introducing her amendment, which will then be debated on the House floor, but then withdrawn before there's a vote. The idea is to prevent a lopsided tally that wounds trans rights down the road, whether in a solo "transg-ENDA" or in a reunited ENDA next Congress if it fails to become law this year.
Assuming ENDA does pass the House, it's anyone's guess whether the Senate will dare touch this hot potato. Thank goodness another pragmatist, Ted Kennedy, is in control of the bill's fate there. Kennedy resisted for years introducing ENDA with "gender identity" included and unless I've missed it, he hasn't even promised it will start off trans-inclusive as it did (for the first time) this year in the House.
If ENDA passes the House in compromise form, there will be pressure on Kennedy to introduce it trans-intact (pun intented) in the Senate so that "gender identity" has a chance to make it through, perhaps if ENDA is attached to some noncontroversial legislation. (The same wayward fate that thus far has stilted the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.)
Meanwhile, leading trans activist Mara Keisling is working overtime to reinforce the ridiculous idea that ENDA is dead anyway, so she and her "trans or bust" allies won't take the fall for klling it. "There is no chance of this becoming law now," she told GCN. "We will have to get together and decide how to proceed in '09."
Get together? Now there's a novel idea.
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