According to Dr. Jillian Weiss' Congressional ENDA spreadsheet, we seem to have enough "supporters" in the House to pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act once and for all.
That does not mean ENDA will pass.
Dr. Weiss' spreadsheet shows 214 Representatives are confirmed 'suppprters' on ENDA, and 35 unconfirmed Democrats. We would only need four of those unconfirmed Democrats to vote for ENDA to get it passed. However, 'support' is not a "Yes" vote.
Only a "Yes" vote is a "Yes" vote.
There are always procedural maneuvers Republicans can use to stave off equality, and we must keep our eyes on the conservative Democrats who get nervous around equality issues, but it does seem we have enough "support" for the bill to pass it if it comes up for a vote. Until the House votes on this bill and passes it, however, their support is meaningless; and the clock is ticking on this Congress to pass ENDA. Our House of Representatives has got to have a real vote on ENDA before December if this has any real chance of passing in the Senate and ever getting signed.
In 2007, LGBT leaders and activists had a very optimistic outlook on ENDA's passage. Then suddenly, all hell broke lose, and we lost ENDA.
The problem with the 2007 ENDA bill that led to its being rewritten and eventually tossed out was that while it had broad support in theory, lawmakers were uneasy about going on record on the House floor for this controversial bill. The newly minted first term "Blue Dog" Democrats (conservative Democrats from formerly Republican districts) were especially nervous about voting on ENDA. The religious right tend to be very loud, and our legislators were hearing far more from opponents of the bill than supporters. Today, they are only more emboldened after their 'victory' over equality in Maine. We can't let them win again.
Cold Feet: A Capitol Hill condition.
The 'cold feet' problem has only gotten worse. We're still hearing trepidation coming from these young Representatives over two years later. In fact, things are worse, as some Democrats may now be more on the fence over ENDA than they were before the health care vote. We can't expect that an inclusive ENDA is going to pass if we haven't been able to ease these fears.
The only solution is to ease our lawmakers' fears by being far louder on ENDA than the religious right.
Not securing passage of ENDA now would serve a deadly blow to efforts for equality for a long-time in the future. Losing on ENDA this year could mean our movement gets set back years--if not decades. If we can't drown out the religious right by being in the faces of the 'on-the-fence' lawmakers, then ENDA will die quietly part-way to the finish line, much like it did in 2007.
By quietly, I mean quietly in Congress. ENDA will just simply fall off of the radars in Congress, and drop from the agendas, never to be seen again. "ENDA? What ENDA? I don't know what you're talking about!"
Our course of action.
How do we convince activists, however, to get serious about ENDA when our attention is spread so thin? There are so many important issues to push with Congress, and I am a supporter of all of them. I am especially passionate about the Uniting American Families Act, as I'm one-half of a bi-national couple and I've been a big proponent of Rep. Jerrold Nadler's bill for seven years now, hoping some day I will be able to sponsor my partner for citizenship.
However, everything flows from ENDA. Right now the religious right is focusing on it, and we need to as well. ENDA's passage will open up a whole new level of activism that would have previously been impossible. We will be able to get UAFA passed, and Don't Ask/Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act overturned much quicker if we can get ENDA passed first.
As an organizer, one of the biggest barriers to transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual involvement in political action is fear of Professional retaliation. That was always my fear when I was a teacher. Although I wanted to write opinion-editorials and letters to the editor, I was kept from doing so out of fear of losing my job; a fear that came true, despite my caution.
Getting ENDA passed in this Congress will give our community--especially those in the south--the freedom and flexibility to finally get involved in the struggle without fearing repercussions. We will be able to speak up and speak out more freely and frequently, and much more effectively get Don't Ask/Don't Tell overturned, get UAFA passed, and dump DOMA forever; opening the door to the next stage in our struggle.
Send a message: No ENDA? Pack your bags.
We need to collectively pool all of our energy and put it all into ENDA to get it passed. The correct way to channel that energy into ENDA is through communicating with Congress and doing so at a level we never have before. We need to put pressure on our Representatives (especially those 35 Democrats that won't commit) to take some action and make it count. We must let it be known that a vote on the floor for ENDA is the only criteria by which we will be judging their 'support.' You can't be "pro-gay" and not vote for ENDA. If you're not "pro-gay" than you don't deserve our contributions or support. It is as simple as that.
If our lawmakers will not push ENDA forward and get passage this year, we will find supportive progressive lawmakers to take their places in the next Congress that will.
Your job is to communicate frequently with your lawmaker. You also need to get everyone you know in your district to engage your lawmaker. My own lawmaker is clearly on record against ENDA. I am trying to make it abundantly clear that this will be his last year in office. If he were on the fence on ENDA, however, I'd still be communicating that same message. If we hold our Representatives accountable for the passage of ENDA, they will have no choice but to take action.