No “ENDA” In Sight On Capitol Hill

Ongoing controversy surrounding the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

An outcry within the LGBT community over the House leadership’s proposal to remove gender identity protections from the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act entered its second month in late October, as plans to vote on a pared-down version of the legislation appeared stalled.

The ENDA struggle, which has pitted an ad hoc group of leading LGBT rights organizations against the venerable Human Rights Campaign, began in September, when Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, a gay Democrat and main sponsor of the legislation, announced that the House Education and Labor Committee would consider a version of ENDA without gender identity protections. He and other leaders argued that the original and more comprehensive ENDA, which would protect individuals from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, would not garner the votes needed to pass.

When the LGBT community, save for HRC, overwhelmingly responded in support of the excised trans protections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed action in the Education and Labor Committee. Later, in mid-October, a version of ENDA with the gender identity provision removed still won approval in the committee, and headed toward a floor vote. During this tense time, Representative Tammy Baldwin, an out lesbian Democrat from Wisconsin, received the go-ahead from Frank and the House leadership to attach a floor amendment to ENDA that would restore the gender identity protections, a legislative maneuver of some difficulty and risk that could isolate transgender individuals.

Faced with the unpalatable choice of either voting for an ENDA without gender identity protections, or rejecting the legislation outright, it appeared by late October that many House Democrats might prefer to avoid a vote altogether on the edited legislation.

Some cited a feeling of futility prompted by the knowledge that President George W. Bush has
promised to veto any version of ENDA that passes the legislature.

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