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    October 18, 2007

    Gay ENDA gets House panel vote today

    Posted by: Chris

    As the gay-specific version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act comes up for a vote today before the House Education & Labor Committee, there are a few nuggets from a story in this morning's Washington Post over the ongoing trans-or-bust controversy:

    As it now stands, the more limited bill is expected to narrowly clear the House next week, at which point the Senate will likely move forward.

    Barneywapo That's contrary to the latest conventional wisdom I've heard among the trans-or-bust nay-sayers, who've said (and I believed) that the Senate won't vote on ENDA after the mess it made in the House this past month. (I'm inclined to believe almost anyone who'll suggest that Democrats will stall long-promised gay rights bills; I would be delighted to be proved wrong. Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, anyone?)

    [Barney] Frank [originally] added the transgender language [to ENDA] because he believes that discrimination against people based on gender identity is real and serious. Then he was informed by Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) that Democrats on the committee were balking.

    Again contrary to earlier reports, which suggested the problem was a lack of votes in the House overall; perhaps it was both.

    Historically speaking, civil rights protections tend to expand very slowly and group by group. Never before has the political climate been as hospitable to gays and lesbians as it has been since the Democrats won control of the House and Senate in November.

    Are you reading, H. Alexander Robinson? Civil rights progress proceeds group by group and, I would add, protection by protection.  Even Lambda Legal fell guilty to claiming sexual orientation and gender identity are ultimately inseparable, when in fact they are (and should be) different categories.

    "The speaker's and Representative Frank's legislative path for action on ENDA, while not our choice, follows the path of other civil rights and business regulatory legislation," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

    Still up on the fence, playing to both sides while fully acknowledging only one, HRC tries to wiggle way its through and only succeeds in disappointing almost everyone. The fact is that ENDA will pass the House despite HRC and other lgbT groups, not because of them. How ironic after all those years in which this very same gay-specific ENDA was HRC's central legislative goal.

    If [the House] committee approves ENDA as expected today, the plan is to bring the bill to the House floor next week. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Frank's co-author on the original bill, said at that point she would offer an amendment to restore the transgender protections. Many Democrats worry that Baldwin's amendment will suffer a fate potentially worse than omission: sweeping defeat.

    So much for worries by some commenters to this blog that Republicans will back trans-inclusion as an ENDA poison pill.  More than likely, trans rights backers and their lgbT allies will see just how close they came to wrecking historic workplace protections for GBL Americans based on very wishful thinking that transgender inclusion lies just around the political corner.



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