History was made on June 26 when the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Heath, Employment, Labor and Pensions held the first-ever Congressional hearing on transgender issues and gender identity discrimination in the workplace. Testimony from transgender individuals and advocacy organizations provided lawmakers with insight, helping to lay the groundwork for future legislative proposals.
While not prompted by any pending legislation, the hearing took place seven months after the House voted 235–184 to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which bans workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. ENDA sparked substantial controversy in the LGBT community when protections for gender identity were eliminated from the final legislation. House leaders maintained that the change was necessary in order to garner enough votes to pass the legislation.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, credited subcommittee chairman Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) and openly gay Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) for making the landmark hearing possible. “I think for years [Congress] thought about gender identity as sexual orientation’s little brother, and I think Congressman Andrews and Congressman Frank are right in wanting to focus more on transgender people,” Keisling told Bay Windows.