Whenda ENDA?

by on December 6, 2009  •  In Congress, ENDA, Transgender

The joint statement issued last week by all the major lgbt rights organizations designed to generate alarm about the delay in ENDA should be heeded. ENDA is over for 2009. Why? Not because members of Congress are lazy or dismissive, but because the reality of tough issues is hitting the fan.

The next step in the process of enactment is for the House Ed and Labor Committee, which held a hearing on ENDA in September, to go through its "mark-up" process. This means that the existing bill language will be changed into the final form that will go to the House floor; the committee will pass the bill in its revised form. Although the bill can't go to the House floor for a vote until after the committee votes, the revisions made in the mark-up process are not just those needed to get a majority vote in committee (House Ed and Labor is probably the farthest left committee in Congress); they embody the adjustments and deals needed to insure the bill's passage in the full House.

It should come as no surprise that the bill's provision of job protection for transgender persons, which likely would not have survived a Republican amendment to strike two years ago, is proving to be a potentially tough sell. Advocates are tweaking and talking, trying to achieve wording on issues such as restroom use that can stand up under the Republican ugliness that will kick into high gear when a floor vote is scheduled.  This is one reason why referenda votes within the last year in Kalamazoo and Gainesville were so important – in both cases, conservatives sought a popular repeal of a local anti-discrimination law covering both sex/o and GI by singling out trans people for attack.  In both cities, voters reaffirmed the anti-discrimination laws. You can bet that advocates on Capitol Hill will be mentioning Kalamazoo and Gainesville every chance they get.

In addition to trans issues, there are also some fairly technical legal questions regarding the bill as well, for which clarifying language may be added.

The goal now is to do whatever rewriting is necessary to move the bill as early as possible in 2010. The Senate will take up the version of the bill that the House passes. In the Senate, there could well be more debates over additional amendments, although ideally the deals made now will be sufficient for both chambers.

With a lot of work and a little luck, there could be a White House signing in the spring.


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