Activists from GetEQUAL interrupted a House committee hearing this morning to demand a markup of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The activists approached Chairman George Miller, D-California, and attempted to hand him a magic marker.
“I don’t know if it’s because of the recession that you guys you can’t afford markers, or whatever the issue is, but in our community there are people being fired because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”
Miller refused to take the marker but told the activists that the committee plans to consider ENDA soon.
“We’re working on it as expeditiously as we can,” Miller said.
Another unidentified committee member could be heard voicing opposition to ENDA.
“This is the problem with this. There’s no end to it. You’re never going to satisfy them all,” the unidentified lawmaker said.
The audio on a live stream of the committee hearing then cut out for a few seconds. When it returned, Miller explained to the audience that the disruption was related to ENDA.
“It’s not an easy piece of legislation,” Miller said. “It’s a really complicated piece of legislation. We want to get it right, but we expect to have it before this committee in the very near future.”
Mark Reed of Dallas, one of the activists who disrupted the committee hearing, sent me a text message saying he’d been detained but not arrested. Reed said openly gay committee member Jared Polis, D-Colorado, came out to talk to the activists following the disruption.
Openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has said previously that he expected a markup of ENDA “this week or next.”
You can watch video of the disruption by going here and rewinding to the start of the meeting. After the jump, a full press release from GetEQUAL.
- Dallas’ Mark Reed, far right, is shown along with the other five activists who disrupted the committee hearing this morning. Reed said he was detained for an hour afterward but not arrested.
GetEQUAL disrupts Congressional hearing to demand action on Employment Non-Discrimination Act
WASHINGTON – Carrying markers for each member of the House Education and Labor Committee, GetEQUAL, a new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and activist organization, co-founder Robin McGehee, Mark Reed, Kelsey Phipps, Natasha Dillon, Alan Bounville, Sergio Llanos and Ali Lozano interrupted the beginning of the Committee hearing today on Capitol Hill to demand that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) be marked up and sent to the House floor for a vote immediately. The GetEQUAL activists held up signs reading “GetEqual Pass ENDA” in the middle of the hearing, effectively stopping the proceedings for several minutes. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) escorted the activists out of the committee hearing room and then the Capitol Hill Police immediately detained all seven activists.
“Every day that ENDA is not passed is another day when someone in our community will be fired, especially transgender individuals and those living in states that have struck down employment protections,” said Mark Reed, a member of GetEQUAL and one of the activists involved in today’s protest. “We are determined to continue fighting for this bill and intend to use non-violent civil disobedience and people powered actions to bring attention to the injustice.”
In reaction to the protest, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Rep. George Miller (D-CA) responded, “It’s not an easy piece of legislation,” Rep. George Miller (D-CA) said. “It’s a really complicated piece of legislation. We want to get it right, but we expect to have it before this committee in the very near future.” “We’re working on it as expeditiously as we can,” Rep. Miller said.
“We have been chasing Representative Miller since the end of last year,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder of GetEQUAL. “Today we finally had the opportunity to confront him and tell him we are tired of the delays and the empty promises.”
According to the Dallas Voice, an unidentified committee member could be heard voicing opposition to ENDA. “This is the problem with this. There’s no end to it. You’re never going to satisfy them all,” the lawmaker said.
“The unidentified lawmaker is correct,” McGehee continued, “we’re not going to be satisfied until the Democratic Congress keeps its promises to the LGBT community. And we’re going to keep coming back until they do.”
ENDA has been stuck in the House Committee on Education and Labor, chaired by Rep. Miller, since last year even though Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) promised it would come to a vote by the end of 2009. In December, the Committee postponed a mark-up of the bill. More recently Frank, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) all claim it is a high priority and they have the votes to pass it.
On March 18 of this year, GetEQUAL activists staged simultaneous sit-ins in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco and Washington, D.C. offices demanding she show leadership in bringing ENDA to the House floor for a vote. Ten activists were arrested and four were later arraigned in the District of Columbia Superior Court.
GetEQUAL was also responsible for yesterday’s and last month’s protests at the White House, where Lt. Dan Choi and other LGBT vets handcuffed themselves to the White House gates to protest the President’s inaction on his promise to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) this year.