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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 28, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 22
ENDA still on track, D.C. staffers say
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ENDA still on track, D.C. staffers say

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

ENDA - the Employment Non-Discrimination Act - is still on track, Congressional staffers say, and could come up for a vote in June or July.

Moving 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' repeal ahead of ENDA on the legislative schedule does not imply that ENDA is in trouble, they add.

ENDA would add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights laws covering the workplace.

Drew Hammill, spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told SGN that the speaker had intended to bring ENDA to a vote first, but altered her plans to take advantage of the upcoming vote on the Defense Department Authorization for 2011.

"The speaker has had several meetings with the national LGBT groups - I won't identify who exactly was at the table - and the consensus was to do ENDA first," Hammill said. "But there was movement on Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the Defense Authorization is the logical place to put it."

The "movement" Hammill identified was the compromise language worked out by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Karl Levin (D-Mich.) and the White House that would allow DADT repeal to pass now, but not be implemented until a Defense Department study is completed in December.

Rep. Barney Frank's office agreed.

"DADT is going first because it is attached to the Defense Authorization bill, which moves forward at a pace for reasons totally unconnected to DADT," Frank staffer Harry Gural said in an e-mail to SGN.

Gural added that ENDA would come up for a vote in the House in "June or July."

According to Hammill, the earliest that ENDA will come up is "The second week in June. It won't be before that because we won't be in session."

Congress will adjourn for its Memorial Day break after voting on the Defense Authorization, and will reconvene June 4.

According to Hammill, "it hasn't yet been determined" if the House or the Senate will act first on ENDA.

Some LGBT activists have publicly worried that DADT was moved ahead of ENDA because Democratic leaders in Congress fear they still lack the votes to pass ENDA.

Speaker Pelosi reportedly ordered a whip count - a formal process of counting probable Yes and No votes - last month, but no results have been released.

"It has been whipped," Hammill confirmed. "We don't make the count public for obvious reasons."

Ed Selleby, spokesperson for Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) chuckled when asked about the ENDA vote count.

"How close is the vote? That's the $64,000 question!" he exclaimed. "I know the speaker believes she has strong support for it."

"We have a firm count, but we don't share it. & As far as ENDA votes, we are close but not there yet," Gural told SGN.

Gural repeated Frank's call for LGBT activists to call their Congressional representatives frequently to move as many votes as possible to the Yes column.

Seattle Congressman McDermott is a co-sponsor of ENDA and a long-time advocate for equal rights for the LGBT community. SGN asked Shelleby what Seattle voters should do, since McDermott is already committed to a Yes vote on ENDA.

"Call your brother in Oklahoma. Call your college friend in Maine. Call your friends and family outside of Seattle," Shelleby replied. "Tell them 'We need for you to be an advocate where you are.'"

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LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2010
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