Big news! The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has just announced its witness list. It's an interesting list that raises hope and questions, and I've uncovered some facts about the witnesses that you can see after the jump.
But meanwhile, down in West Virginia, longtime Senator Jay Rockefeller IV has been a quiet friend to the LGBT community. Perhaps too quiet. He has cosponsored a bill with sexual orientation and gender identity language, and he voted for the hate crimes bill.
He also voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate in 1996, when it failed of passage by a single vote.
He's one of 6 Senators who are quite likely to vote in favor, but who have resisted calls to declare public support. The problem with this closet support is that the leadership will not bring ENDA to a vote unless they know they have the 60 votes necessary to defeat the Republican filibuster.
Please call Senator Rockefeller and ask him to speak up. Remind him there's a hearing on Thursday in the Senate on ENDA.
Contact info and more on the ENDA Senate Witness list, just announced, after the jump.
(Reminder to all: We're liveblogging the hearing at The Bilerico Project Thursday at 10am. You can enter your email in the box for a reminder to tune in.)
According to Wikipedia, Senator Jay Rockefeller was first elected to the Senate In 1984, though Republican Ronald Reagan won the state in the presidential election.
To date, this has been the last competitive Senate race in West Virginia. Rockefeller was re-elected in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008 by substantial margins. Supporting ENDA publicly is not going to hurt his chances of re-election, but it will help ENDA get to a vote.
I note that the Senate HELP Committee announced its witness list for the Thursday hearing on ENDA. I've put the details at the bottom of this post. No, you may not skip there and read it. You must first call Senator Rockefeller. And eat your vegetables. They're good for you.
Please call Senator Rockefeller and ask that he support S1584, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. If you're not sure what to say when you call, click here for a "Step-by-Step Script For Calling Legislators On ENDA."
You may get a staffer who is unaware of the Senator's position on ENDA, or what ENDA is. Take a moment to explain what it is, and to ask if he or she can get some information on the Senator's position. Tell us what they said in the comments below.
Senator Jay Rockefeller IV:
DC Phone: 202-224-3954
(Toll free DC Capitol line: 866-220-0044)
click here for email
Senate HELP Committee Witness list for Thursday's ENDA hearing:
My analysis: It's a strong list, concentrating on addressing business concerns about the bill. Some have questioned the fact that there appears to be only one person from the LGBT community on the list. That may be a deficit, and it raises concerns about gender identity inclusion. However, there are several people submitting written testimony to the committee, including some transgender people. I hope that testimony is prominently displayed on the committee's website.
Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC - Thomas E. Perez was confirmed last month by the Senate as the Asst. Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. He graduated from Harvard Law in 1987, and was a career prosecutor and Deputy AG in the Division's Criminal Section. He was special counsel to U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy and then director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights. He was a law professor at Univ. of Maryland. As a member of the Montgomery County, Md. Council, he had agreed to sponsor legislation prohibiting gender identity discrimination, but then backed out. He was later Md. Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
Helen Norton, Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law, Boulder, CO - Ms. Olson is an employment practice partner at the big law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which represents corporations. She testified in 2007 at a Senate hearing against the liberalization of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The Honorable Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, State of Illinois, Chicago, IL - Lisa Madigan has been the Attorney General of Illinois since 2003, when she became the first female attorney general for Illinois. Illinois has a state statute prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. By the Illinois Constitution, with the office of Lieutenant Governor currently vacant she is next in line of succession. On December 12, 2008, she attracted national attention after filing a motion with the Supreme Court of Illinois to temporarily remove Governor Rod Blagojevich from office.
Virginia Nguyen, Diversity & Inclusion Team Member, Nike, Inc., Beaverton, OR - She has been the Director of Diversity at Nike for the past five years.
Mike Carney, Police officer, City of Springfield Police Department, Springfield, MA - Michael Carney is a gay police officer in Springfield, Massachusetts. The pressure to stay quiet overwhelmed him, and he resigned from the force in 1989. In 1991, he helped found Gay Officers Action League of New England, a support group for gay law enforcement officers. In 1992, he tried to get his job back, and during his interview, he acknowledged he was gay. He was denied reinstatement and filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. In 1994, the agency ruled that there was probable cause the department had discriminated. Carney returned to the Police Department that year.
Craig Parshall, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, National Religious Broadcasters Association, Manassas, VA - Mr. Parshall is senior VP and general counsel of the National Religious Broadcasters Association. He testified at the previous House hearing in September. Quote: "The pro-homosexual lobby claims that there is "religious exemption" language present in ENDA, but as NRB's General Counsel Craig Parshall notes, that language is "insufficient, overly complex and vague".
Camille Olson, Partner, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, Chicago, IL - Ms. Olson is an employment practice partner at the big law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which represents corporations. She testified at the previous House hearing in September, and in 2007 at a Senate hearing against the liberalization of the Americans With Disabilities Act.