Sweeping federal nondiscrimination bill introduced in Congress

Out Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.

Out Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.

A sweeping federal nondiscrimination bill protecting LGBT people was introduced in Congress today, earning praise from some of the nation’s leading LGBT advocacy organizations and allies.

The Equality Act, sponsored by out Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., would amend federal laws to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education, public accommodations, credit, jury service, federal funding, renting and home ownership.

“You can be married on Saturday, post your wedding pictures on Facebook on Sunday and be fired from your job or kicked out of your apartment on Monday,” Cicilline said in a statement.

Currently only 19 states and the District of Columbia have clear LGBT nondiscrimination protections in employment and housing. Texas is among the states without any statewide protections.

Previous attempts to pass a narrower bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act barring employment nondiscrimination based on social orientation and gender identity, have failed. In 2013, a bill with sweeping religious exemptions passed before losing the support of key LGBT groups.

Following the Supreme Court’s June decision constitutionalizing marriage equality, LGBT advocates announced a push for nationwide nondiscrimination laws. The Equality Act is the first attempt to address national activists’ latest push for equality.

“As a gay woman myself, I know the importance of ensuring that there are comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections in place,” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said in a statement. “In the absence of these protections, same-sex couples who now have the right to marry in their home states will still be at risk of being fired from their jobs or evicted from their apartments without cause.”

Yesterday, Ted Olson and David Boies, the legal team that represented the plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry case challenging California’s same-sex marriage ban, voiced support for a comprehensive federal LGBT non-discrimination law.

The bill is also one of the latest pushes to include gender identity as a protected class.

“This is a historic moment for transgender people,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in a statement. “This bill is especially important as it comes on the heels of unprecedented public attention on trans lives. Despite that, trans people have faced record rates of violence — just this week, we learned of the 10th trans woman of color murdered in 2015. For trans people, equality is a matter of life and death. Congress must understand this urgency as they work toward passing this landmark legislation.”

The bill faces an uncertain fate in an increasingly conservative Republican-controlled Congress.

—  James Russell

Comprehensive LGBT protection bill to be introduced in Congress on Thursday

Providence Mayor David Cicilline

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.

A comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination bill will be introduced in Congress on Thursday, according to BuzzFeed.

Out gay Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., will introduce the bills.

“No one in our community should be at risk of being fired, evicted from their home, or denied services because of who they are or whom they love,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement.

He said the bill is necessary because the “unacceptable patchwork of state-level protections for LGBT people, and more than half of LGBT Americans live in a state that lacks fully-inclusive non-discrimination laws.”

Texas is one of 28 states without a statewide policy protecting LGBT employees from workplace discrimination. It is one of 29 states without laws protecting LGBT individuals in public accommodations.

The bill would “provide explicit, consistent protections for sexual orientation and gender identity,” Cicilline wrote in a letter circulated among his colleagues. Those protections include areas often overlooked by many LGBT activists covering seven key federal laws: housing, public accommodations, employment, credit, juries and federal funds, public education, and renting and home ownership.

“The time has come in this country for full, federal equality, and nothing less. A federal non-discrimination bill would create permanent and clear protections to ensure that all employees are hired, fired or promoted based on their performance,” Griffin said. “All LGBT Americans deserve a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families.”

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Rep. Eric Johnson files bill to end LGBT job discrimination

Rep. Eric JohnsonRep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, today (Thursday, Jan. 8) filed HB 627, which would protect workers from being fired or otherwise discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. He did so on the 37th anniversary of Harvey Milk’s inauguration to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as one of America’s first openly gay elected officials.

Texas law currently protects workers from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability. It does not protect workers from being fired or discriminated against solely due to their sexual orientation or gender expression.

“Every Texan should have the opportunity to work hard and provide for their families,” Rep. Johnson said. “Right now, the law allows someone to be fired simply for being him or herself or for whom they love. This really is a civil rights issue.”

The bill would include sexual orientation and gender expression in the list of prohibited employment discrimination. The Legislative Budget Board estimates that under this law more than 500 credible cases of discrimination could be reported each year.

Polls show that more than 3 in 4 Texans (75.8%) of Texans support prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. “The Legislature is lagging behind the people of Texas on this issue,” Rep. Johnson said. “We need to catch up.”

Today also marks the anniversary of Harvey Milk’s inauguration as one of the first openly gay elected officials in America, in 1978. One of Milk’s first acts as a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors was to pass a landmark non-discrimination ordinance that contained the same employment non-discrimination provisions that Rep. Johnson filed today.

Nearly four decades after San Francisco adopted Milk’s ordinance, 21 states and hundreds of cities have prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A number of Texas cities have passed employment non-discrimination ordinances as well, including Plano, Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, and Austin. However, the State of Texas has not yet joined them in enacting such protections for its workers. Rep. Johnson is looking to change that and extend non-discrimination protections to all Texas workers.

—  James Russell

Polis using parliamentary procedure to try and get a House vote on ENDA

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

lisakeen@mac.com

 

polis.jared

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis

House Democrats announced Wednesday, Sept. 17, that they will try to use a parliamentary procedure — a discharge petition — to force the Republican-dominated chamber to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Scott Overland, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who initiated the petition, said it had 76 signatures within the first couple of hours. It needs 218 and the bill has 202 co-sponsors who are eligible to sign the petition.

The discharge petition has become the only hope in the Republican-dominated House for ENDA to reach the floor. House Speaker John Boehner has made clear repeatedly that he will not schedule ENDA for a vote.

The “discharge petition” can force the bill out of committee and onto the floor, but it is a complicated and difficult maneuver.

According to House rules, the petition is first filed with the House clerk. If a majority of House members (218, not including delegates) sign the petition, the clerk will put ENDA on the “discharge calendar.”

After seven days on that calendar, supporters can, on the second or fourth Monday of the month, bring a motion to discharge the bill from committee to the floor. If the House passes that discharge motion, supporters can then ask the House to approve a motion to send ENDA to the floor immediately.

If the motion for immediate consideration passes, the House will debate and vote on ENDA. If any of the votes fail, ENDA returns to committee. If the discharge motion fails, ENDA cannot come up again this session.

ENDA currently shows 205 co-sponsors, but that includes three delegates, from D.C., Puerto Rico and the Mariana Islands. So the discharge petition needs the signatures of all 202 co-sponsors plus another 16 members.

The U.S. Senate passed ENDA last November by a vote of 64 to 32. But since then, many national LGBT groups have begun to withdraw support for the Senate version of the bill because it exempts some employers based on the degree to which they are involved in religious activities.

The discharge petition seeks to force consideration of the Senate version of ENDA (S. 815) (as amended by Polis in July), includes an exemption for religious organizations but only to the same extent such organizations are exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act with respect to discrimination based on race, color, sex and national origin.

Although Polis’ discharge petition has the support of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Assistant Democratic  Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., discharge petitions are “rarely successful,” according to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

In a statement released Wednesday, Polis said he introduced the measure because “Republicans have been dragging their feet on this bill for too long, allowing workplace discrimination against hardworking LGBT Americans to continue.”

“In our nation that was founded on the notion that with hard work and dedication anyone can get ahead, it is unthinkable that employees can still be fired for who they love or what gender they are,” said Polis. “I hope members from both sides of the aisle will sign this petition and protect all Americans from discrimination in the work place.”

ENDA seeks to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in private and public employment. In private employment, it applies only to employers who have 15 or more employees.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

 

 

—  Tammye Nash

Report: Lack of LGBT employment protection is a human rights violation

Williams-Institute-Logo copyThe lack of protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the U.S. constitutes human right violations, according to a report filed by the Williams Institute with the United Nations.

Based on social science research and legal analysis, the report suggests the United States is not complying with its international human rights commitments, particularly in the areas of employment, health, youth and violence against LGBT people.

The United Nations has recently begun a review of the human rights record of the United States. In its last review, the United States accepted recommendations to address discrimination against LGBT people in order to comply with international human rights standards. However, there is no federal law that protects LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Obama will sign executive order banning discrimination

Barack ObamaPresident Obama announced today he will sign an executive order on Monday that bars federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The president said last month that he planned to sign the two orders.

The announcement follows the recent collapse of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — ENDA — in Congress. LGBT groups withdrew their support for the bill in opposition to its sweeping religious exemptions, which many feared would basically gut protections  following the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The Huffington Post’s Gay Voices editor-at-large Michelangelo Signorile has more on the collapse here.

UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute’s research suggests that up to 34 million employees, or one fifth of the national workforce, will be included.

Senior White Officials noted that President Obama will not include exemptions for contractors based on their religious beliefs, as many activists initially feared. But he will keep intact an amendment signed by George W. Bush in 2002 allowing religiously affiliated contractors to discriminate on the basis of religion.

—  James Russell

LGBT legal organizations withdraw support for ENDA

Five national LGBT legal organizations issued a joint statement today withdrawing their support for the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — ENDA — because it would allow religious organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.ENDA

Organizations signing onto the statement are: American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Transgender Law Center.

The statement reads:

“The provision in the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that allows religious organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity has long been a source of significant concern to us.  Given the types of workplace discrimination we see increasingly against LGBT people, together with the calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds that followed immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has become clear that the inclusion of this provision is no longer tenable.  It would prevent ENDA from providing protections that LGBT people desperately need and would make very bad law with potential further negative effects.  Therefore, we are announcing our withdrawal of support for the current version of ENDA.

“For decades, our organizations have challenged anti-LGBT workplace discrimination in the courts and worked for the passage of inclusive non-discrimination laws at the local, state and federal level.  We do this work because of the devastating toll workplace discrimination has had, and continues to have, on the lives of LGBT people.  It is unacceptable that in the year 2014, men and women are forced to hide who they are or whom they love when they go to work.

“The current patchwork of legal protections at the state and local level has left LGBT people vulnerable to discrimination. For this reason, we have supported federal legislation to explicitly protect LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace, and have urged President Obama to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

“ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations — including hospitals, nursing homes and universities — a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people.  The provision essentially says that anti-LGBT discrimination is different — more acceptable and legitimate — than discrimination against individuals based on their race or sex. If ENDA were to pass and be signed into law with this provision, the most important federal law for the LGBT community in American history would leave too many jobs and too many LGBT workers, without protection. Moreover, it actually might lessen non-discrimination protections now provided for LGBT people by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and very likely would generate confusion rather than clarity in federal law. Finally, such a discrimination provision in federal law likely would invite states and municipalities to follow the unequal federal lead.  All of this is unacceptable.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby has made it all the more important that we not accept this inappropriate provision. Because opponents of LGBT equality are already misreading that decision as having broadly endorsed rights to discriminate against others, we cannot accept a bill that sanctions discrimination and declares that discrimination against LGBT people is more acceptable than other kinds of discrimination.

“Our ask is a simple one: Do not give religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT people when they have no such right to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Religiously affiliated organizations are allowed to make hiring decisions based on their religion, but nothing in federal law authorizes discrimination by those organizations based on any other protected characteristic, and the rule should be the same for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Religious organizations are free to choose their ministers or faith leaders, and adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression will not change that.

“These concerns are not hypothetical. Increasingly, this is what employment discrimination against LGBT people looks like. Take the example of Matthew Barrett.  In July 2013, Matthew was offered a job as food services director at Fontbonne Academy, a college prep high school in Milton, Massachusetts that is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. Fontbonne Academy has employees and admits students of various faiths. Yet, two days after Matthew listed his husband as his emergency contact on the standard employment paperwork, and despite twenty years of work in the food services industry, his job offer was rescinded. Although nothing about the food services job involved religious rituals or teaching, Matthew was told by an administrator that the school was unable to hire him because “the Catholic religion doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.” The current version of ENDA would authorize this sexual orientation discrimination.

“As the national outcry against SB 1062 in Arizona (and similar proposals in numerous other states) demonstrates, the American people oppose efforts to misuse religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people.  It is time for ENDA (and the LGBT non-discrimination executive order for federal contractors) to reflect this reality. Until the discriminatory exemption is removed so that anti-LGBT discrimination is treated the same as race, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information under federal workplace laws, we think ENDA should not move forward in Congress. In addition, we will oppose any similar provisions at the state and local level. We are hopeful that the many members of Congress who support this historic, critically important legislation will agree that singling out LGBT people for an unequal and unfair exemption from basic workplace protection falls unacceptably short of the civil rights standards that have served our nation well against other types of discrimination for fifty years. We stand ready and eager to work with them to achieve the long-sought goal of explicit, effective federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Democratic platform calls reparative therapy quackery and calls for Texas marriage equality

Narey

Stonewall Dallas President Jay Narey, center, at the Texas Democratic Convention

The platform that emerged from the Democratic Convention held in Dallas last week stands in stark contrast to that of the Texas Republican platform that encouraged reparative therapy to “cure” gays.

“For decades it has been beyond dispute by health professionals that homosexuality is a normal, natural and positive variation of human sexual orientation,” the Democratic platform says. “Similarly, it is clear that a person’s gender identity — one’s inner sense of being male or female — is deep-seated and cannot be changed.”

Jeff Strater, a gay delegate, was elected to serve on the state Democratic Executive Committee from Senate District 23. He said he was overwhelmed by Democrats’ response to the Republican platform.

“LGBTQ mentions are peppered throughout the platform,” Strater said, adding that each plank in the platform was passed by the entire convention.

“There were no holdouts,” he said. “No cranky ‘no’s’ from East Texas.”

Strater is not the first gay man elected to the executive committee from District 23. Gary Fitzsimmons and Buck Massey held that seat in the past.

Former state Rep. Glen Maxey said he was impressed by the planks submitted by the trans community that passed just as easily as the others. Those planks would make it easier for a person to change information on their state identification.

While LGBT is mentioned elsewhere in the platform, one whole section is devoted to “personal security and equal protection for LGBTQ Texans.”

Had Texas Republicans not made so-called “reparative therapy” an issue by calling for it in their state party platform, Strater said, most Democrats would likely not have given the concept a second thought. But with the GOP platform making headlines on the subject, reparative therapy ended up being included in the first section in the Dems’ platform relating to the LGBT community. Democrats want to ban the practice — referred to as “quackery” in their platform.

Strater said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro reflected the sentiment of the convention when he addressed delegates on Saturday: “Gov. Perry, if you believe gay people need repairing, then I would suggest your soul needs repairing,” Castro said.

Jay Narey, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said, “Democrats stand in stark contrast to Republicans — like day and night.” He said the reparative therapy issue was just the obvious contrast, but positive platform planks on issues affecting everyday life in the LGBT community’ were passed overwhelmingly.

Other planks Democrats adopted dealt with marriage equality, trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination and personal security that call on “social, health care and public service professionals to seek out and adopt best practices in the delivery of services to all Texans.”

Narey also pointed out that while Log Cabin Republicans were not allowed even a small table at the GOP convention, the Stonewall Caucus was so large, it met on the main convention floor while other caucuses were assigned meeting rooms.

Narey said he had no idea how many people attended the Stonewall Caucus because there was no controlled access to the convention floor. Hundreds of people — and all but one statewide candidate — attended the caucus. He estimated at least 300 LGBT delegates participated, but hundreds more allies also participated in Stonewall events.

“There’s been a dramatic shift on our issues over the last four election cycles,” Narey said. “State Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa is extremely supportive of the LGBT community. He’s largely responsible.”

Strater said he was energized and motivated as a result of the convention and made quite a few new contacts that he’ll call on through the campaign. His only negative comment about the weekend concerned the Ladybird Johnson breakfast: “When [anti-gay Dallas City Councilwoman] Vonceil Jones Hill was introduced to give the prayer, there were gasps from the audience,” he said.

—  David Taffet

Obama to sign order banning anti-trans discrimination

President Obama announced earlier this month that he intends to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Today, according to Politico.com, he President Obamaended National Gay Pride Month by announcing that the White House is also preparing an executive order banning job discrimination among federal employees on the basis of gender identity.

The president mentioned the second executive order during a Pride Month reception at the White House. Spokesman Shin Inouye said Monday he had no details on the second executive order.

—  Tammye Nash

Obama announces employment nondiscrimination executive order

obamaPresident Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic National Committee LGBT Gala in New York City last night and announced his planned employment nondiscrimination executive order that will cover federal government contractors.

Obama opened his speech by toasting a newlywed couple at the dinner.

“There are other newlyweds here — Eric Johnson and Mark Parker were married a couple of hours ago,” Obama said. “They decided to make this their after-party — pretty cool. If you’ve got a glass, raise it for Eric and Mark — a lifetime of health and happiness to them.”

Obama spoke about how politics has changed over the past decade. In 2004, Republicans ran on an anti-marriage platform.

“In fact, the Republican Party built their entire strategy for 2004 around this issue,” he said.

He singled out Texas and Oklahoma for particular ridicule.

“Today, a lawmaker in Oklahoma is trying to ban all marriages rather than recognize same-sex marriage,” he said. (Laughter.) “Now, that seems a little over the top, but that’s just my opinion. (Laughter.) The Texas Republican Party’s state platform endorses gay conversion therapy in 2014. Fierce legal fights are underway to stop marriage equality from expanding any further or to prevent court rulings from taking effect.”

Finally, he announced his employment nondiscrimination executive order.

“I’ve directed my staff to prepare for my signature, an executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Applause.) Because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love shouldn’t be a fireable offense.”

—  David Taffet