The House Education and Labor Committee passed a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ) that protects only sexual orientation and not gender identity on Oct. 18. The full House is expected to take up the measure this week.
The bill passed the committee with the support of 23 of 27 Democrats and 4 of 22 Republicans. The Democrats voting 'no' did so because it did not include protection for transgender persons. They were Rush Holt ( New Jersey ) , Yvette Clarke ( New York ) , Linda Sanchez ( California ) and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich ( Ohio ) .
Social conservatives on the committee offered four amendments to further weaken the bill, but they went nowhere.
Earlier in the week, on Oct. 16, the only open lesbian in the House, Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., announced that the Democratic leadership would allow her to offer an amendment on the floor that would restore the gender identity provision.
'I have never wavered from my conviction that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act must include protections base on sexual orientation and gender identity,' Baldwin said in a statement released by her office.
'We are greatly disappointed that the committee chose to move forward with a bill that is not endorsed by a single LGBT organization,' said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. 'It is historically unprecedented that Congress would pass a civil rights bill that the civil rights communityincluding those it is meant to protectdoes not want.'
'This process has put members [ of Congress ] in the position where they think they might have to vote against the first piece of pro-gay rights legislation ever. That's the tragedy of this situation.' said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in an interview with CBS News on Logo.
'We oppose this legislation; we hope it never comes up for a vote without transgender inclusion,' he continued. 'We are putting our allies in a situation; we should not be here. The answer is either yank the bill or pass an inclusive bill.'
'Two weeks ago, our community was told that gender identity would not be included in any version of ENDA. Congressional leadership expected our community to acquiesce,' United ENDA said in a news release. The coalition of about 300 national, state, and local LGBT groups had come together as a result of that attempted fiat by the Democratic leadership. 'It is because of our unprecedented efforts that new options, such as the proposed amendments by Rep. Baldwin are able to come before Congress.'
'Now our community must focus our full attention on the upcoming floor vote on ENDA and building support for Rep. Tammy Baldwin's amendment that would make this bill fully inclusive of the entire GLBT community,' said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jon Hoadley said, 'We appreciate that Congressional leaders like Congresswoman Baldwin continue to share our commitment to pass an inclusive bill, and we expect Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership will actively support the Baldwin amendment.'
Foreman said the Senate is not going to pass the bill this year, and George Bush is not going to sign it. 'We've put our community through this wrenching, divisive debate over the last three weeks for an absolutely nothing but a symbolic vote.'