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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 1, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 13
Barney Frank to reintroduce ENDA
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Barney Frank to reintroduce ENDA

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Rep. Barney Frank (D-N.Y.) announced at a D.C. news conference on March 30 that he will reintroduce ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act).

ENDA would amend federal civil rights laws governing employment to prohibit most employers from discriminating in hiring and promotions on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Frank had originally intended to formally submit the bill to the House of Representatives on March 30, but said he was waiting to assemble more cosponsors.

'It was announced but not formally introduced - the bill has not been 'dropped,' Frank's communications director, Harry Gural, said. 'We have the bill text exactly as it will be [introduced] - which is exactly the same text as last year. But before it is formally introduced, we are still collecting cosponsors.'

Frank was the prime sponsor of ENDA's previous incarnation in the 111th Congress. The measure had 198 cosponsors - reportedly the largest number who had ever signed on to proposed legislation - but short of the 218 votes needed for passage.

All of Washington's Democratic representatives cosponsored the measure, as did our state's two Democratic senators.

According to Gural, the new bill will be exactly the same as the one introduced in the 111th Congress.

In a pre-introduction media release, Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality said she had been assured that the new ENDA bill will include both sexual orientation and gender identity; will include a very broad exemption for faith-based employers; and will not include any of the compromise amendment language limiting protections for Transgender workers that was rumored to be added to the 2010 version of ENDA.

A version of ENDA passed by the House of Representatives in 2007 did not include protection for Transgender workers. It was never taken up by the U.S. Senate because then-President George W. Bush promised to veto any ENDA bill - Trans-inclusive or not - that came to his desk.

A Trans-inclusive ENDA was introduced in 2010, while Democrats had a solid majority in both houses of Congress, but it never came up for a vote. It is considered even less likely to pass now that Republicans control the House.

Nevertheless, Frank said he thought that reintroducing the measure would give supporters of LGBT rights an additional opportunity to lobby legislators on the issue.

'This is a chance to continue - not begin, but continue - a lobbying effort that I am convinced will be successful, frankly, next time the Democrats take back the House of Representatives,' Frank said.

Frank appeared at the March 30 press conference with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), formerly chair and now ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, the committee that will have jurisdiction over ENDA.

Both Frank and Miller said the Transgender protections in ENDA add to the difficulty in passing the legislation.

Miller said 'great strides' were made on ENDA in the 111th Congress, but added that more education is needed on the gender identity language.

'We went round and round on the issue of Transgender and discussing it with members of Congress,' Miller said. 'I just think it's very important that the Transgender community just insist - as the school lunch community does, or the Head Start community, or the community development block grant community, or the [National Rifle Association] or whatever it is - insist upon sitting down with members of Congress and getting them to understand and recognize what is happening.'

While Frank said he was waiting for more cosponsors before formally introducing the bill, he admitted he did not have a count of how many cosponsors he actually had.

He added that the legislation may have some Republican supporters based upon conversations he had in the 111th Congress.

'I personally talked to nine Republicans who were ready to vote for the bill with Transgender inclusion last year,' Frank said. 'We lost [former Delaware Rep.] Mike Castle, but I believe we will have some co-sponsors. But I worked very hard on Republicans. We did have nine Republican hard commitments to vote with us against any effort to knock out Transgender.'

'Without the Transgender piece, you have a dozen, but on the Transgender issue, we had, as I said, nine commitments and we'll be approaching them to see how many of them will co-sponsor,' Frank added.

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