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Sen. Edward Kennedy supports noninclusive ENDA
Sen. Edward Kennedy supports noninclusive ENDA
Reactions from GLBT rights groups are mixed

by Nick Ardizzone - SGN Staff Writer

Senator Edward Kennedy announced this week that he will lead the movement to pass the Employee Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) through the Senate. The proposed law would prohibit discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation, but would not protect employees who are Transgendered or whose appearances do not match their gender at birth.

The reaction from the GLBT community to Kennedy championing their cause has been mixed. The noninclusive ENDA bill, authored by Gay Representative Barney Frank, has caused a rift between national GLBT civil rights groups. Some argue that nondiscrimination rights for the Transgendered will follow rights for Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals, and that adding Trans protection would cause the bill to fail the Senate vote. Others favor an all-or-nothing approach and feel that passing the existing ENDA bill would justify discrimination against Transgendered individuals.

The Human Rights Campaign issued the following statement supporting Kennedy's backing of the bill: "We will continue this work until all members of our community no longer fear being fired for who they are."

Roberta Sklar of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told the Associated Press, "We will strongly oppose it. Leaving Transgender people out makes that a flawed movement."

"It was made very clear in the fall that most LGBT organizations, the vast majority of LGBT organizations, do not want Congress to shove a civil rights bill down our throat that we don't want," agreed Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The Seattle Gay News contacted Josh Friedes of Equal Rights Washington for a local response to Kennedy's actions. "At this point in time," he said, "Equal Rights Washington believes it would be best not to bring forward the noninclusive ENDA bill because we believe that we will be much better off after the 2008 election. We're likely to have in office a president who would gladly and happily sign a bill into law that provides protection to Gay and Transgender workers."

While the controversy over the bill is splintering activist groups, Friedes asked for unity. "The Gay community is united in a common goal, and that is to make sure the employment nondiscrimination laws of the Unites States include sexual orientation and gender identity."

"Senator Kennedy is not the enemy. He is an ally. Our job is to make sure that Senator Kennedy and his colleagues understand that the Gay community would prefer to wait at this time. & We have to educate the public and legislators about the problems that Transgender workers face, and this takes time. Senator Kennedy is a longtime supporter of LGBT civil rights. He has taken the position that he bas been put between a rock and a hard place because he would have preferred the House to have passed a Trans-inclusive ENDA bill."

Friedes stressed that the entire GLBT community would like to see a fully inclusive ENDA, but he believed Kennedy's timing was poor. "Given the fact that President Bush would likely veto and ENDA bill, inclusive or not, now seems to be the time to be working on elections. The matter, frankly, is divisive when the community should be unified in seeking to elect a president and congress who are supportive of GLBT civil rights."

Kennedy appeared to be already looking to the Democratic future after he announced his support, "The fact is that the House of Representatives has taken action," he told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "The best opportunity for progress is ... to follow along on the action of the House of Representatives, and then look down the road to a new day after we have a good Democratic Congress and a Democratic president."

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