Editors' Note: Babs Siperstein is a member of the Democratic National Committee, co-chair of the National Stonewall Democrats' Federal PAC Board and Political Director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey.
Last Thursday evening about 6:15 PM ET I received an automated phone call on my personal cell from the Human Rights Campaign about ENDA.
If I wished, they would automatically put me in touch with my Congressperson to ask for his support. Everything went well until the connection was lost before the Congressman's office was actually called. There was no call back from HRC.
A few hours later, I received an unrelated call from a Congressional staffer who knew that my Congressman, Republican Leonard Lance (NJ-7), was an original co-sponsor of ENDA. There was a clear indication that Lance, as he did with the Mathew Shepard- James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes bill, would vote with the Republican bloc on a "Motion to Recommit," which could effectively kill the bill by sending it back to Committee.
While no one knows what a motion to recommit would contain at this point, supposedly they would use the "trans" issue as a wedge to minimize transgender inclusion. There are obvious ironies here.
We need to instruct our Members of Congress carefully about the upcoming ENDA vote. It's good to call and ask them to support ENDA, but it's better to tell them what to expect and what you expect.
LGBT "friendly" Republicans follow their "Conservative Leadership" first. For example, look at the Hate Crimes Bill that passed last year. Back on October 8, 2009, House Republicans led a "Motion to Recommit," attempting to "kill the bill" by sending it back to Committee.
Roll Call #769, at 3:17 PM, barely defeated that move by a vote of 208 - 216, with only Democrats voting to keep the Hate Crimes Bill alive. That means all Republicans voted to kill it.
Just seven minutes later, at 3:24 PM, 44 Republicans flip-flopped after they couldn't break the Democratic majority. The jumped aboard to vote for the final passage in Roll Call #770, and the vote was 281- 146 for the first LGBT inclusive federal legislation. The point is that Republicans may ultimately vote for ENDA to establish their "moderate" credentials, but they will probably try to kill the bill first.
Here in New Jersey, the three Republicans who flipped and voted "yes" in the final vote were Frelinghuysen, Lance, and LoBiondo. As an aside, Leonard Lance, one of the original sponsors of the Hate Crimes Bill, who voted to kill it, joined the festivities at the White House after the bill signing.
Our "Ask" On ENDA
So that brings us to ENDA, HR 3017, already watered down to appease the right wing. It now faces a crucial and imminent markup and vote. I know I don't have to repeat how important this is. It is jobs.
What is our "ask"? What do we ask our Congresspersons specifically? Now is the time to get smart and be aggressively focused. Let's expose our "fair-weather" friends. No more excuses.
Here is "my ask" to all the Republicans and wavering Democrats who may vote for ENDA Heck, let's ask everyone! Show them we've a little political sophistication.
First, my "general" ask:
"I'm asking Congressman Lance (fill in your Congressperson) to make sure all LGBT people are included in ENDA, including transgender people, just like New Jersey law that has been embraced in our state includes transpeople. I won't accept anything less than support for a fully inclusive ENDA."
(thanks to Steven Goldstein for word-framing)
Then, the "technical ask":
1. "Please commit to voting YES on ENDA, including supporting the bill and voting against any 'Motion to Recommit' that minimizes transgender inclusion." You need my vote; I need yours, and I need you to commit to voting against any motion negatively affecting transgender people."
2. To Staffer: "You let your boss, my Representative, know that I have made this call/sent this email."
The personal case of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Vice-chair and the "only" Republican member of the Congressional LGBT Caucus, is extremely interesting. Last month it was revealed that she has a transgender son. In her home state of Florida, there are no statewide LGBT protections of any kind.
Will she again vote with the unanimous Republican bloc to kill the bill, or strip transgender protections, and thus deny her own child Federal employment protections?
Or will she do the just and moral thing and put politics and partisan politics aside for true "family values"?
Will she follow the lead of Log Cabin "darling" Mary Bono Mack, whose stepson, Chaz, has publicly transitioned? Bono Mack won't even sponsor ENDA.
OK folks, what would the NRA do?
Action Now! Call your Members of Congress and tell them no more excuses!
Crossposted from Blue Jersey