House Democrats may take gender identity out of job discrimination bill
Is it worth removing transgender people from the federal employment nondiscrimation act if it improves the chances of getting the bill passed?
That’s the debate that could surface in coming days after the Washington Blade reported that House Democratic leaders were considering removing transgender people from ENDA because they’re afraid the bill would die on the House floor as written.
As written, ENDA would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which includes gays, bisexuals, lesbians and transgender people.
Openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., told the Blade that if a “whip” count or straw poll of House Democrats revealed there is not enough support for ENDA in its current form, he would encourage Speaker Nancy Pelosi to remove transgender people.
Noting that civil rights advances for other minorities have come about incrementally, Frank proposed the idea of introducing a separate transgender bill at a later date, according to the Blade.
However, gay rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Nation Gay & Lesbian Task Force have said they will not support ENDA if transgender people are removed.
Paul Scott, executive director of Equality Texas, said in a statement Thursday, Sept. 27, that there is no room for compromise on the matter.
“We remember how for 10 years, communities of color refused to sacrifice the gay and lesbian community on the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act to get it passed,” Scott said, referring to Texas’ hate crimes law, passed in 2001. “We also know how difficult it is to go back and include the transgender community after the fact.”
The Blade reported that as of Wednesday night, the whip count showed House Republicans likely would have enough support from Democrats to kill ENDA if transgender people are included.
Pelosi reportedly called for the whip count after some House Democrats expressed their objections to including transgender people.
Even if it passes the House, there are questions about whether the bill even without the transgender provision could clear the Senate. And there is a possibility President Bush would veto it.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 28, 2007