Guest Blogger

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now

Filed By Guest Blogger | December 02, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, NCLR, NCTE, NGLTF, Out & Equal, PFLAG

Editors' Note: This guest post is from Mara Keisling, Exec Director, National Center for Transgender Equality; Kate Kendell, Exec Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights; Jody Huckaby, Exec Director, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National; Michael Mitchell, Exec Director, Stonewall Democrats; Selisse Berry, Exec Director, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates; and Rea Carey, Exec Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Because the Employment Non Discrimination Act is desperately needed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to combat employment discrimination and is also ripe legislatively, our organizations call on the members of the House Committee on Education and Labor and Congress to take immediate action and pass ENDA without further delay.

Passing a bill of far reaching impact such as ENDA requires considerable labor. Written in large part almost fifteen years ago, with even older roots, tens of thousands of people and organizations have formed and advocated for ENDA. Simply from the perspective of LGBT organizations, our lawyers have helped craft language, our field staff members have mobilized supporters, our communications teams have told our stories, and our lobbyists have logged countless thousands of hours on Capitol Hill and in coalition meetings.

Outside of Washington DC, state, local and some national organizations have worked hard to move ENDA and secure employment protections. They have passed state and local laws, developed relationships with their members of Congress, and leveraged those relationships to educate Congress and push for passage of ENDA. Many individual activists and allies have undertaken considerable time and effort to meet with members of Congress and press for their support.

So many people have worked so hard. All the while, though, people across our country wait, desperate to keep the jobs they have and to work in the jobs they seek. They are the ones who matter and they are the ones who cannot afford to wait if they are to overcome discrimination and have the jobs that they need to feed their families, pay the rent, and contribute to their communities. They need to know that they can get work and keep it without being fired for who they are. They cannot wait any longer nor should they have to.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.

It is important for LGBT people to understand as well that many in Congress have already done so much. A bill simply cannot get this close to passing without the support of hardworking members of Congress. Whether it be the bill's lead champions, Representatives Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, the late Senator Ted Kennedy and now Senator Jeff Merkley, or so many others in leadership and the rank and file, ENDA is clearly important to many members of Congress as a key part of their work for greater equality in the United States. In fact, ENDA now has 192 co-sponsors, more than any other LGBT bill in history.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.

In recent past years, a large obstacle to passage has been a President who was unwilling to sign ENDA into law. That obstacle is gone. President Obama has promised to sign ENDA if passed by Congress and his administration has worked to advance ENDA in significant ways, including providing witnesses who testified with strong statements of support at both House and Senate hearings this year. A large majority of Americans agree that employment should be based on the ability to do the job--this measure isn't even controversial with the general public.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.

So what needs to happen next?

Work is happening in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but the most immediate action needed is for the House Education and Labor Committee to take up ENDA in what is called a markup, in which the bill is debated and "marked up" with changes before being voted on in committee and sent on to the full House. As many people know, the Committee had a markup scheduled on November 18, but it was postponed. As requested, many of our organizations have provided direct technical assistance to the Committee to move things forward. We have also expressed very clearly and repeatedly to the Committee the need for immediate action on ENDA. We are deeply concerned that any delay in passing this much needed bill can have only negative consequences on the Hill and for the employment prospects of LGBT people all over the United States.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.

While our organizations and others have worked tirelessly on advancing ENDA for years, and we have proudly worked side by side with grassroots organizers and concerned people across the country, we are heartened by the clear rising tide of ever more people willing to step up and do their part. We urge all LGBT people and allies who want to join this important work--regardless of what else you do or whatever other action feels right to you--that you make sure you take the single most important and effective action: contact your own members of Congress. With few exceptions, everyone in the U.S. has one Representative and two Senators. Whether you believe them to be supportive, hostile or unsure, they need to hear from all of us that ENDA is vitally important and that the LGBT community needs and wants ENDA now. Please, before you do anything else, please call. And if you want to take additional action, then mobilize others to call. Visit www.unitedENDA.org for tools to take action and www.endanow.com for the latest news on ENDA. Feel free to use these tools, and also to speak from the heart about why ENDA is important to you.

Our voices must be heard on Capitol Hill, loudly and clearly, that employment equality is a principle whose time is come. ENDA must pass now. Let's rally our community and our allies alike to stand up for the rights we deserve and the equality we need. We are so close--please help this bill take the final steps towards becoming law.

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now.


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I am so pleased to see these national organizations working together to get ENDA on the map. I don't know what will get Chairman George Miller moving, but I hope that our LGBT leaders will see this and start asking the right questions.

Jillian said:

"I hope that our LGBT leaders will see this and start asking the right questions."

Like how the hell are we going to get past the Senate? Or, when should we admit we can't get past the Senate.

Perhaps there are some people in the "LGBT Industry" who have an economic interest in pretending we can pass ENDA. Feel free to turn that into a question, Jillian.


Meghan Stabler | December 2, 2009 10:26 AM

The resounding phrase from this post and from all the recent calls to action is quite simple;

It is time for Congress to take action and pass ENDA now

I am also going to throw in the "shame on you" card too to those members of Congress who are our leaders and especially LG, or strong allies for NOT stepping up and acting on two groups of simple words in the phrase above;

"Take Action" and "Pass ENDA"

Now is the time. The road has been paved with loss of jobs, income, housing and as we all know too well, life. Now is not the time for our elected leaders to turn their backs on us again, if they do, they are turning away in shame.

Echoing the post and the excellent work that Jillian has been doing lets re-energize on calling the members of the Ed/Labor committee to demand markup.

I also want to know where our GL brothers and sisters are? Our T community is smaller and incredibly marginalized, we need the voices, the phone dialing, from our Lesbian and Gay citizens to help get ENDA passed. ENDA is NOT just for T, but for them too!

No more excuses!

This is an awesome letter. Major kudos to all of these folks and their orgs.

Sadly, we see, as usual, that one major LGBT organization has apparently chosen not to become a signatory to this letter.

As wonderful as it is to see this desperately-needed working coalition of LGBT civil rights orgs forming (more please), it's also disheartening to see that for all the change we're seeing in our movement, at least one organization still, after all these years, either cannot or will not follow suit and work in concert with the rest of us.

The more things change...

Meghan Stabler | December 2, 2009 11:36 AM

Rebecca,

You are incorrect, HRC was not asked to join this post.

This was a post from the United ENDA coalition, HRC was not asked to be a signatory. HRC continues to advocate for an inclusive ENDA, building on the extensive grassroots No Excuses campaign and Pass ENDA (http://www.passendanow.org).

We need to turn up the heat on the committee and tomorrow HRC will launch an action alert to HRC’s members and supporters living within Ed/Labor Committee members districts requesting their calls to Ed/Labor members and urging a Committee vote before the end of the year.

HRC remains committed to passing an inclusive ENDA.

Meghan

Interesting, I was not aware this being done under the banner of UnitedENDA. UnitedENDA is not indicated in the piece as other than an informational link. Thank you for the correction.

Still, I'd like to see some (public) coalition-building and coordination happening between HRC's efforts on ENDA and those of the rest of the community, wouldn't you?

Meghan Stabler | December 2, 2009 1:31 PM

Rebecca,

HRC has been working steadfastly with all the organizations mentioned in the the post, HRC still remains one of the most active organizations on the Hill working on inclusive ENDA. As I mentioned in my first reply HRC continues to work with activating HRC's membership and supporters to get an inclusive ENDA passed.

We are all in this TOGETHER, lets keep the focus on getting HR 3017 scheduled, then through markup, to the house floor, voted on, and voted on in the Senate.

Meghan

1. How do you know if hrc was asked?

2. Why isn't hrc a member of Unied ENDA? It would go a ways to responding to critics of both their previous actions on this bill and those who question how they operate in general if they joined the rest of the community on the UE.

Meghan?

Meghan Stabler | December 2, 2009 1:38 PM

Kathy,

I know and I hope that you will see a post from a person on the "guest blogger" list who will say that the intention was to ask HRC and HRC omission was just an oversight.

As for being a part of UnitedENDA - obviously history there from 2007, and the question should be asked to UnitedENDA.

Regardless, HRC remains committed to passing an inclusive ENDA.

Meghan
HRC National Board of Directors

As for being a part of UnitedENDA - obviously history there from 2007, and the question should be asked to UnitedENDA.

Regardless, HRC remains committed to passing an inclusive ENDA.

Meghan, it makes perfect sense that the HRC wouldn't want to join UnitedENDA back in 2007 -- the HRC was pushing for "yes" votes on the broken ENDA while UnitedENDA was pushing for "no" votes on it. So of course you wouldn't join the coalition that was opposing you.

But it's two years later and we're all on the same side again. I don't believe the HRC has anything to gain (and much to lose) by supporting a broken ENDA again, and usually I can at least expect the organization to act in its self-interest. But given the history you reference, I can't help but have a nagging feeling in my mind as I wonder how the current HRC position different from its position in Sept 2007?

As I try to set those nagging doubts out of my head and focus on HB 3017, I can't help but ponder that much of those doubts might be settled if the HRC joined UnitedENDA and became accountable to something beyond itself. Would joining UnitedENDA be something the HRC is interested in? If so, I'd suggest you reach out to them. Given the history, I wouldn't expect them to send the HRC an invitation without the HRC taking the first step.

Meghan,

I am glad to hear that HRC is also working on getting ENDA passed. I do have a question. Why isn't HRC stepping up with a very public push on the committee mark up. They seem to be very silent right now. I follow ENDA very closely and I can't find any information on what action HRC is taking or how I can help. I have even e-mailed HRC and received no response.

HRC should be out front leading the charge with press releases, editorials, TV interviews and visits to Chair Miller's office.

What gives?

Meghan Stabler | December 2, 2009 7:34 PM

T2,

HRC has over the past few months issued action alerts to membership and supporters - a further action alert is scheduled to go out tomorrow

HRC has been coordinating with many LGBT organizations including NCTE to get an inclusive ENDA passed

HRC staff, board and membership has be working diligently to brief, lobby and hold meetings with Reps to get them to co-sponsor an inclusive ENDA. I've been volunteering my time in helping to craft and direct this since the disaster in 2007

HRC set up www.passendanow.org to focus on passing an inclusive ENDA

HRC has used the Business Council to get businesses to support an inclusive ENDA via the business coalition and letters to Congress

I've personally be there with HRC in the House and Senate, and in committee. It's not just been myself, all staff and in particular the legislative staff. I've submitted testimony and been at every hearing (along with Allyson, Joe and other members of staff) we've spoken with members and staff to move both bills forward.

As I've said before, HRC remains steadfast is passing an inclusive ENDA, staff are doing the work. We now need members of Congress to step up and do theirs

You want to get involved - contact Allyson or myself

Let's focus on getting an inclusive ENDA passed

~ Meghan

T2 is asking the same question I am, Meghan. If HRC is truly committed to an inclusive ENDA, where they now that the chips are down and we need all hands on deck and working together?

It's easy to say HRC supports an inclusive ENDA. The real question is where are they right now, today, when we could really use their resources and their help?

HRC remains committed to passing an inclusive ENDA.

Flashback time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-6ZoNJj-bU

Yes, but HRC also wants to be considered the "Alpha Dog" in the hood and think that everyone has to follow their lead. They still don't understand the concept of being a team player. If they aren't in charge, then they won't play nice with others.

Angela Brightfeather | December 2, 2009 10:54 AM

1.) This is a welcomed sight and responsive to what has been said over the last few weeks about our concerns regarding ENDA and our leadership organizations concerns.
2.) Thank you to all the organizations noted who are joining to send this letter. The unity in this is very heartening.
3.) Will HRC be sending a letter on thier own? Has anyone asked them? Where is the one Trans person in HRC who would know and why isn't anyone speaking for HRC?

Jillian, I was going to note my feelings about your post the other day, but found myself fuming and thought to wait until I calm down a bit.

I want to let you know that when the vote came in on Maine and SSM, I felt a nauseating feeling about it, but even more, I felt that it took the steam out of everythng else, especially ENDA. I don't care what anyone else says, but that is the way that I felt. The buildup for that vote was to similar to the buildup for ENDA and I could not help but feel that motivation had been lost, especially when the White House decided to not comment on Maine, I felt that they were also not behind ENDA.

The last few days have given me more hope and I'm back on board. This letter helped a great deal.

I think that we all had to feel that ENDA is a community goal not just an individual one that is far to easy to get snuffed.

this "T" has called both of her senators and her congressman. hope this moves quickly.

Meghan Stabler | December 2, 2009 11:48 AM

Jillian,

I believe one of the most important things that we must get all the LGBT community to do is to call upon the Committee on Education and Labor members and politely ask for Markup of H.R. 3017 inclusive ENDA to be scheduled before year end...

If members of the community live within their district, the calls should be made ASAP...

Readers can find their district members committee Here

Meghan

It is a shame that a group of LGBT Advocates seeks to mislead our community with this admonition:

"We urge all LGBT people and allies who want to join this important work--regardless of what else you do or whatever other action feels right to you--that you make sure you take the single most important and effective action: contact your own members of Congress."

Please understand, as you make these important calls, ENDA cannot pass the US Senate, so ENDA will not pass. So, think of your efforts as "practice" or "training" for the future.

The "beliefs" that prevent political support of LGBT issues are not negotiable. The only political options are 1) change the politician, or 2) change the minds of their constituents. Until then, we can't pass any laws.

After you become tired of making calls to Congress without positive results or the reality of the situation settles in, please start calling your neighbors. Call anyone and everyone. Each one of those calls are much more valuable than thousands of calls to Congress.

Andrew, I've been quietly reading your comments about ENDA without response for several days now, but I think it's time to say something.

In a word: bullpuckey.

There is no guarantee of anything, pro or con, in the Senate on ENDA right now. There are too many undefined variables.

There's also another factor: The human factor. The reality is that our community has lobbied for this bill for over 30 years, and over time it has come closer and closer to passage, once missing by just a single vote.

Yet we keep coming back every time and trying again to get those few more votes we need. Why? Because we have to, because it's too important not to.

This is politics, not economics. It's not a zero-sum game. The better and more consistently you advocate your interests, the more you will tend to gain from the process not only at that moment but also in the future. To advocate in the present is to lay the groundwork for future advocacy as well.

I hope that the Democrats will come to their senses and pass this bill as they promised. If they do not, then it is fair to expect that we will remind them of that fact in very clear and direct terms at election time.

This is about teaching the leadership of the Democratic Party that they don't get to treat our community and our interests this way and get away with it anymore. If that lesson must be taught the hard way, then so be it.

Rebecca said:

"There's also another factor: The human factor. The reality is that our community has lobbied for this bill for over 30 years, and over time it has come closer and closer to passage, once missing by just a single vote."

It's not the result of "lobbying," it is the change in the makeup of Congress and members personal beliefs - either anti or pro LGBT. That is something that is accomplished in the election cycle, not after they are elected.

Plus, the suggestion that Democrats (as a group) are pro-LGBT is also false - the truth is 28% of Democrats are Anti-LGBT. 88 of the 317 Democrats in the 111th Congress.

Wishing and hoping doesn't change that. Threats of punishment, and all the "shame" you can conjure up, doesn't change the votes regarding LGBT issues. You have to change the politicians or change the minds of their constituents. You are "lobbying" the wrong people. You have been for decades.

I think you underestimate us, Andrew, as well as the value of well-placed and persuasive political commentary. I've been doing this a while, and I know what works and what doesn't. For that matter, anyone who's been a TBP regular through the last couple of elections knows too.

Ours is a community that is just now becoming able to implement the full extent of its social and political power in order to effect positive change. The movement is finally coming of age, not because of the politicians and the elites, but despite them.

It's not about wishing and hoping, Andrew. It's about demonstrating to the politicians that it's no longer only elections which have consequences.

AndrewW - Would you please explain to me why, if you find working on ENDA such a lost cause, why are you spending soo much time on these ENDA blog posts?

That's simple Justin. When people become enrolled in the false idea that they can change a politicians mind by harassing them they are being given "false hope." The put forth the requested energy and then they are defeated - defeated in a game they did not have a chance of winning. After enough of this unnecessary "rejection" and "failure" we lose them.

Only 1 out of 10 people in our community even participate in any effort to obtain equality. When we send them on suicide missions - we lose them forever. We should stop hurting ourselves.

My name is Laura not Justin. I have been on somewher around 35 to 40 lobby visits for the United ENDA Coalition. One of the questions we ask the congressional staffers is what should the community be doing to push a maybe or a weak yes to definite yes. Almost inveriably, they respond we need to be hearing from our constituents. I have friends who are or were congressional staffers, one of which has the job of tallying constrituent messages. You might want to tell staffers how meaningless their jobs are. To say that citizen lobbying does not work is so patently false, you loose all credibility. The number one job of every politician is to get re-elected. They listen to their constituents, at least I think they do if I'm to believe my staffer friends.

Laura,

I did not say "citizen lobbying" was a waste of time. I said lobbying regarding LGBT issues was a waste of time. As you noted, politicians listen to their constituents and those constituents are anti-LGBT.

My comments were directed mostly at the reality of US Senators positions on LGBT issues. Until you change the minds of their constituents, these politicians will not change theirs. Harassing Senators DOES NOT change the minds of their constituents. They look at polling data, like the rest of us, and in that area they are somewhat movable. But, any suggestion that the "number of calls" they receive changes their votes - on LGBT matters - is disingenuous, at best.

Andrew does this because he works for the opposition. He is committed to distract us and discourage us from contacting our reps. I am just wondering how much he is paid per post?

It has really been a wonderful experience working with all of these groups--plus many other organizations and individuals--over the past months and many years before that on ENDA. Having a bill with the most co-sponsors of any LGBT legislation to date is the result of the efforts of many people, inside and outside of organizations, over time.

The good news is that many groups have been working together for years and this is just one example of that. We hope others will put out their own statements, alone or collectively; this was never meant to be a comprehensive letter of signatories and simply expresses the beliefs of our groups that we know are shared by others.

What's really important is that we keep communicating with our members of Congress about the need to move the bill forward now.

It has really been a wonderful experience working with all of these groups--plus many other organizations and individuals--over the past months and many years before that on ENDA. Having a bill with the most co-sponsors of any LGBT legislation to date is the result of the efforts of many people, inside and outside of organizations, over time.

The good news is that many groups have been working together for years and this is just one example of that. We hope others will put out their own statements, alone or collectively; this was never meant to be a comprehensive letter of signatories and simply expresses the beliefs of our groups that we know are shared by others.

What's really important is that we keep communicating with our members of Congress about the need to move the bill forward now.

HRC was not asked to join this post.

This was a post from the United ENDA coalition, HRC was not asked to be a signatory.

It has to be asked?

Yes, I know, it can't necessarily know of something specific unless told...

...or unless, perhaps, it has enough of a dialogue going that it would know even without being asked.

And I'll reiterate Kathy's question: Why isn't hrc a member of United ENDA? Unless.......

Folks shouldn’t read too much into particular organizations not being signatories to this letter. It was meant as a timely statement that some of the groups who were working together yesterday felt the community and Congress needed to hear quickly. So, at least from NCTE’s point of view, we put a premium on content and speed. I know there are a lot of other organizations local, state and national who have been doing so much to advance ENDA and probably would have loved to sign on. And as far as I know, no organization was asked to sign but declined.

We’d really love to see kindred statements. As our statement acknowledged, for ENDA to have made it as far as it has, a lot of organizations and a lot of grassroots people, all had to chip in together. A lot of folks have done and are doing great work.

It's a great idea Mara, and you, NCTE, and all the people and orgs involved in making it happen deserve our thanks and support.

What I'd really love to see most of all though, would be a serious coordinated effort among our movement's major national orgs to promote ENDA's passage now, whether under the UnitedENDA banner or not.

Whether that's doable or not, I don't know (but I'd bet at least some people reading this know, or know someone who knows), but I certainly hope it is. ENDA, much more than hate crimes or marriage, is where the rubber truly hits the road as far as LGBT civil rights goes for most of us.

If there was ever a time to find a way to truly unite our community's activist efforts to get one big thing done, this is it.

Meghan Stabler | December 2, 2009 7:49 PM

thank you Mara, see you soon.

Thank you for the post; I wholeheartedly support the cause of ENDA and your request for action. I have chipped in on my own blog, Integrally Gay. Here's what I wrote, in part:

If there is a fault to be seen by blogs such as this, perhaps it is a missed opportunity. Many of us live in overwhelmingly blue districts with pro-ENDA representatives and Senators who need no persuasion. When I see blogs such as this one, I do feel a sense that it isn't really speaking to me.

Perhaps that feeling is shared by AndrewW, a commenter on the Bilerco blog. He wrote:

After you become tired of making calls to Congress without positive results or the reality of the situation settles in, please start calling your neighbors. Call anyone and everyone. Each one of those calls are much more valuable than thousands of calls to Congress.

While I don't agree with every point made by AndrewW in every comment, he has made an important point: political action is no substitute for cultural action. Calls to one's neighbors (or family or co-workers), especially to those with whom we disagree, are much, much harder.

They require the expectation that one's communication must be more than a one-way diatribe, but an actual conversation with a real live human being. Such conversations require more than strong convictions and passion, but a temperament of openness to reasoned debate and a willingness to listen as well as educate.

Our leadership, for all their good intentions, needs to be demanding of the entire LGBT community. Instead of asking for the easy "gets," the usual "e-mail your Senator" request, leaders need to be bold enough to ask for real sacrifice.

Joe,

Here's the problem with "Calls to one's neighbors (or family or co-workers), especially to those with whom we disagree, are much, much harder."

Made even harder by the very fact LGBT folk have NO legal federal protections from discrimination in the workplace. That's the significance of ENDA and the real reason our opponents don't want this legislation passed. We can be out and proud at work and have those 'hard discussion's' with our co-workers and even neighbors when we are safe from losing our jobs. Support for LGBT equality will get even stronger. Right now 89% of Americans support employment non-discrimination. What do we need 100%? 89% is already a super majority. The few that oppose ANY protection for our community are clearly the minority, but are very vocal and relentless.

We need to be relentless.

Do you think 89% percent of voters in Alabama support ENDA? I don't think there are any reliable polling on ENDA, but like many LGBT issues, we've made progress.

I wish you would consider the reality that LAWS do not protect you or anyone else - they can only punish bad behavior. Plus, if you are fired (after an ENDA law is in place) it will be for another reason - ; ) ; ).

Please stop acting like Hate Crimes or ENDA are, in any way, protections from discrimination or hatred - they are not, until they come with 24/7 security protection.

The real challenge for all of us is to imagine and then create a world that doesn't need laws to "protect," either us or them. Ultimately, we are "equal" when our fellow citizens believe we are.

If we change our goal from "equal rights" to "equality," we will begin to see real possibilities instead of fake protections.