Trans issue explodes, delays vote on ENDA

Posted on 04 Jan 2007 at 7:23pm
By John Wright Staff Writer

HRC board member resigns over group’s failure to sign petition



U.S. Rep. Barney Frank

WASHINGTON For more than 30 years gay-rights activists have been pushing for a federal ban on workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

This week, they celebrated a successful effort to temporarily halt the latest version of the measure and geared up for a fight to have transgender people included.

More than 90 LGBT groups signed on in opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimation Act after House Democratic leaders decided Thursday, Sept. 27 to remove transgender people as a protected group.

On Oct. 1, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others relented, agreeing to delay until later this month a committee vote originally scheduled for Oct. 2.

“This schedule will allow proponents of the legislation to continue their discussions with [House] members in the interest of passing the broadest possible bill,” the California Democrat said in a statement also signed by Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and George Miller, D-California.

Frank had introduced the sexual-orientation-only version of ENDA late last week, along with a separate bill that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, after an informal count determined a combined version didn’t have enough votes to pass the full House.

“I believe that it would be a grave error to let this opportunity to pass a sexual orientation nondiscrimination bill go forward, not simply because it is one of the most important advances we’ll have made in securing civil rights for Americans in decades, but because moving forward on this bill now will also better serve the ultimate goal of including people who are transgender than simply accepting total defeat today,” Frank said in a four-page statement laying out his position.

To read the entire statement, go to www.house.gov/frank/ENDASeptember2007.html.

Almost every major national and state LGBT organization as well as other civil rights groups disagreed, and on Oct. 1 they submitted a petition to Congress blasting the substitute version of ENDA.

“We oppose legislation that leaves part of our community without protections and basic security that the rest of us are provided,” the petition read.

“You told us you supported a fully inclusive ENDA and would bring it up for a vote this year. We expect that you will honor that commitment, and we look forward to working together to pass a bill that we can all be proud to support.”

The Human Rights Campaign did not sign the petition, instead issuing a statement Sept. 27 saying it “did not assent” to the removal of transgender people from ENDA.

On Oct. 1, HRC’s Board of Directors voted not to support a sexual orientation-only version of the bill, reaffirming the group’s 2004 policy backing a fully inclusive ENDA.

However, HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement HRC will not encourage members of Congress to vote against a sexual orientation-only version of the bill, either.

“Some may say we should have joined the growing chorus of public dissenters earlier,” Solmonese said. “We believed, and still do, that the correct course of action was to continue dialogue with our allies on the Hill and work to the last minute to effect change. That decision, in addition to yesterday’s letter signed by GLBT and civil rights organizations, paid off when we were able to engage in direct conversations that resulted in a guarantee from House leadership to postpone the mark-up [committee vote] until later this month.”

In response to HRC’s failure to sign the petition, the organization’s lone transgender board member announced her resignation Wednesday, Oct. 3.

“Organization after organization has seized the moral high ground knowing that this is a historic opportunity that cannot be squandered, and that it is our moral obligation to ourselves and to generations that will follow to make a loud, clear, unmistakable statement that we are a community and we will not be divided,” Donna Rose wrote.

“There is a single significant organization glaringly missing from that list. The Human Rights Campaign has chosen not to be there,” Rose continued.

Even if ENDA passes the House, it faces a possible Republican filibuster in the Senate, which would require 60 votes to override. President Bush also may veto the measure.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 5, 2007

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