Thursday, November 5, 2009

ENDA Hearings Begin Today

The Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) hearings begin today on Capital Hill. The bill is the first to include gender identity in its protections against workplace discrimination. I met with Congressman Rick Boucher's (Va. 9th District) staff last month to enlist his support of the bill. Congressman Boucher has a mixed history on LGBT rights, but he is all about creating jobs in his district and helping to ensure that those that are here stay here. His staff was optimistic that he would support ENDA.

SistersTalk will be live blogging from the hearings. has a good piece on it.
"The Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions' November 5 hearing will be the bill's first outing since its August introduction by two Democratic Senators – the late Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley – and two Republican Senators – Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

The measure would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (transgender protections).

“This is a very exciting step forward in our efforts to pass this important legislation and guarantee every American, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the right to earn a living,” Julie Edwards, communications director for Senator Jeff Merkley, said in an email.

Thirty four co-sponsors signed on in August. Since then the bill has attracted the support of seven more senators.

Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank introduced the House version of ENDA in July.

Both versions of the bill have been reworked, adding back transgender protections removed from last year's bill. Gay rights groups warned politicos last year that they would not support a gay-only protections bill.

“I am encouraged,” Frank told gay weekly the Washington Blade about the inclusion of transgender protections in this year's House bill. “I think the transgender community and others have been doing this in a very good way. This time they have been doing the lobbying.”

Despite the bill being watered down, it fizzed in the Senate after the House approved the measure.

Social conservatives who argue the legislation impinges on religious freedoms have vociferously opposed the measure.

“This bill will mean that employers will be forced to make employment decisions against their religious beliefs,” Ashley Home, federal policy analyst for the Christian-based group Focus on the Family, told Citizen Link.

The hearing comes on the heels of President Obama signing into law the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Prevention Act, the nation's first major pro-gay law."

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