Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

How Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Is Supporting ENDA

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | September 28, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: employment discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Harry Reid, Nevada

Update: When I wrote this post, I was unaware that Senator Reid had enthusiastically endorsed ENDA in a public speech reported on in another blog. While I still have questions, it is important to admit when one is wrong, especially as regards allies like Senator Reid. I have inserted emendations below in italics. I also direct readers to the comment section, where the details of this are discussed. I owe Senator Reid an apology, and I am awaiting all of the facts from his office.

As we all know by now, the real fight on ENDA is going to be in the Senate, where a supermajority of 60 is likely to be necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster.

There are nine Senators who have privately indicated that they are supporting S1584, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, Reid.jpgbut who have not come out publicly as co-sponsors of the bill, including, surprisingly, the majority leader of the Senate, Nevada Senator Harry Reid.

The majority leader has tremendous power in the Senate. He can move Senators in a particular direction, both by the power of his example and by the power of his office as the leader of the party. So why isn't Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly supporting ENDA? As noted, he did make a public speech pledging support, and his position is he's not a cosponsor because, as Majority Leader, he usually don't sponsor legislation. However, I note that Senator Reid is listed as having co-sponsored 98 bills in this Congressional session.

What example is Senator Reid setting for the Democratic Party? What is suggested by his position on ENDA as the leader of the party?

I can understand that some Senators wish to support ENDA, and will vote for it, but do not wish to be co-sponsors. Co-sponsorship indicates a higher of level of support, and it's not for everybody.

I understand Senator Reid's position about the majority leader not co-sponsoring bills. But he's listed as a co-sponsor on 98 bills this session, including bills on the economy, education, immigration, and women's health. You can look it up at http://thomas.loc.gov - just click on his name under "Browse Bills by Sponsor." Why is it that the rule against co-sponsoring is invoked for our bill?

I seriously appreciate Senator Reid's support. I am devastated that I got my facts wrong about his support being private only, when he in fact made a public speech reported in another blog that I should have seen. But I'm not quite convinced about this rule against co-sponsoring.

At a time when there are many serious problems that the country must address, the majority leader's support is crucial to getting the bill to a vote. Why isn't Harry Reid publicly supporting ENDA? I don't know. But I'd sure like to find out. And if anyone is in a mood to bust my chops, saying that he is supporting ENDA, just not publicly, or just not as a co-sponsor, please note that a miss is as good as a mile when we're talking about the Senate majority leader. This is no time to pussyfoot around. We deserve Senator Reid's uncompromised and unqualified support, now, when it can do some good to get movement going in the Senate. As noted, he has been public recently about his support for ENDA, even though he is not co-sponsoring.

Please call Senator Harry Reid and thank him for his public support. I think you should ask him to co-sponsor the bill, but I leave that up to you. I believe the majority leader should show leadership on the issue of job equality.

Here's his telephone number: 202-224-3542 (click here for email)

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I'm not suggesting people not contact Harry Reid because I have no idea what he is or isn't doing behind the scenes. My congressman is Steny Hoyer. His office always tells me that the House speaker and the majority/minority leaders in either House very rarely co-sponsor legislation and that I shouldn't read much into it. If you do contact Sen. Reid please emphisize to the point of over-emphisizing the importance of a fully inclusive ENDA. This is most definitely concern in the Senate.

Laura, what you were told by your elected official, what you wrote, is accutate -- the answer to the question posed is just a phone call away, and it's not sound to presume that somoeone doesn't 'support' ENDA if they are not a co-sponsor.

On the days that ENDA is on the House and Senate Floors, we will need VOTES. If anyone has any questions about this stuff and wants to reach out to me, I'm glad to respond any time.

There's neither a need nor a benefit for people to assault allies or potential allies. However, it's always good for constituents (people who live in the areas that someone represents) to respectfully express their experiences, needs and expectations. Our calls, emails and letters are most productive when they are sent to people who geographically represent us. So, focus your efforts toward people who you and yours help put in office. That's where contact is most welcome and exclusively beneficial. The rest is noise.

We need to keep the stories flowing, and find others whose stories are yet unheard or untold, provided that it is SAFE for them to share their stories. For some of us, it's not safe, and there should be no judgment about people in those situations.

Our community has enough real work yet to be done -- find LGBT people, allies, familiy members and friends in Districts and states where understanding is at bay, and close the information gap.

We're doing well, but we're not done. Call or email me if anything seems unclear. Thanks, team. This work takes ALL of us. So, let's proceed together as a family, community and team.

Thank you, Diego, for helping me to understand the arcana of Senate procedure. I assure you my intent was not to attack, but to prod. Laura says that she was told that the majority leader rarely co-sponsors bill, and you confirm it. But why then when I look at Thomas.loc.gov, and click on Senator Reid's name, are there 98 bills that he has co-sponsored? How can one say that he "rarely co-sponsors bills"? Why aren't we granted an exception?

By the way, I did put in a call to Senator Reid's office this morning. I will let you know what I hear. I'll also give you a ring, and perhaps it will be easier to clarify on the phone. Thanks for being there to help me (and us) figure this out together.

Hello, Jill. Look closely at Sen. Reid's record for this Congress and you'll see that he has sponsored (which means originated in the cases noted where I look internally) Resolutions and Bill Amendments. These actions differ from co-sponsoring other Senators' bills.

Thanks for asking. You know my door is always open. Heck, you know ALL of my numbers and addies, so keep using them anytime you wish.

By the way, I want to commend you on the great job you did to help people hear legal language and discern its meaning in plain-speak during the ENDA hearing. Well done, my friend.

Because he's a **** Mormon?

I have deleted the epithet used in this comment. I do not tolerate bigotry. I was going to delete the comment entirely, but then a later comment quoted the first, so I decided to redact instead. I did the same for the quotation.

Robert Buckner | September 28, 2009 12:39 PM

"Because he's a **** Mormon?" Wow! What a statement. That's the same mindset and tactic as the anti-gay people. I'm a former Mormon who has NO love for that organization, but Harry Reid is not your typical Mormon. For most Utah Mormons, Sen. Reid is an embarrasment since he's a democrat.
We are fast to judge, not waiting for the facts. I am, however, a bit disappointed in the Democrats and President Obama for not stepping up to the plate and fulfilling campaign promises but again, I don't know how the "good ol' boy" network operates in DC.

Living behind the Zion Curtain in Utah.

Joselyn Harris | September 28, 2009 12:49 PM

Dear Mr. Reid,

PLease Stand up for all of the people of America. That includes LGBT Americans.

my letter to Mr. Reid
Dear Senator Reid:

Please be a Senator who understands that the United States Constitution must apply unconditionally to all Americans, and put your support behind S1584, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009.

Maybe you don't know anyone who was harmed by employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Let me introduce myself to you, so you will know the story of at least one person.

I worked for Tulane Medical Center in the 1980s for two years. During that time, because I was an "out lesbian" I was physically and emotionally gay bashed by Dr. Butcher, a research scientist. He sexually harassed me for two years, and there was nothing I could do about it. He was not the only one doing that to me though.

My immediate supervisor decided to add more work to my job, without compensation, making me do work normally assigned to other people. She wouldn't let me take days off. She let me know that she did this because I am a lesbian. She was not the only one.

Dr. Lehrer, another research scientist, told me that I had to let him know when I went to the bathroom and came back to my office. I finally quit this job because of him. I was told by the head of the Department of Medicine that he knew I was quitting because of the harassment, but there was nothing he could do about it. He also knew that I was being blocked from transferring to other departments, which I tried to do.

I gave up a good job because I was openly discriminated against because of my sexual orientation.

I thought in America that the Constitution applied to me, too. I thought you swore an oath to uphold my constitutional rights, too. Do you have any idea how many LGBT Americans are being gay bashed or denied the right to work?

There is only one reason you would not back this bill -- because you believe that the United States Constitution only applies to the people you accept, approve of, or tolerate. Otherwise you have no reason to join heterosupremacist tyrannical theocRATS who are against equal rights unconditionally for all Americans.

For A More Perfect Union,

Mara Keisling | September 28, 2009 2:26 PM


I agree. And despite not being an ENDA cosponsor for traditional leadership reasons, Majority Leader Reid has been fairly vocal in his support of LGBT people in general and ENDA in particular.

Most recently he spoke at an HRC dinner in Vegas earlier this month. There is an account of it at Americablog [http://gay.americablog.com/2009/09/harry-reid-commits-to-passing-enda-out.html], which includes the text of his speech. In it he says,"The Senate will soon outlaw discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote anyone simply based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and I am committed to passing it out of the Senate and sending it to President Obama for his signature."

Co-sponsorship is one really good sign of support, but ultimately voting for the bill and, in Reid's case, making sure the bill gets heard are even better signs and I think Reid has expressed pretty clearly that he is supportive in those ways.


I wasn't aware of this public statement by Senator Reid, and I am overjoyed to hear it. Thank you for the citation. There is a great amount of detail there about Senator Reid's support for the bill. Most important is this:

"The Senate will soon outlaw discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote anyone simply based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and I am committed to passing it out of the Senate and sending it to President Obama for his signature."

I'm not sure how I missed it, because I have a Google alert for any reference to ENDA that should have notified me. Well, my bad. I am going to change the title of this post, direct people to the comments, and write an apology to Senator Reid's office.

Does anybody really believe Reid would vote for something because he believes in it , something like equal rights for a part of his a(and the national) constituency.
If you haven t been watching it s about being re elected, which means it s about campaign contributions.
Did you think these guys didn t know what Fannie and Freddie and Wall St were up to? Didn t know what the insurance companies have been doing to us for years?
Is it possible that they don t notice that a year and 3 trillion $ later, the mortgage meltdown remains un resolved- foreclosures are skyrocketing, home values continue to fall, and foreclosed homes are being bought up by Wall St firms (now that they re done 'shorting' real estate (for 40 cents on the dollar.
Watch out-our govt is now printing money to buy up our own treasuryy Bills that China and others don t want.
And it s likely to all end in tears!

Wayne Marchyshyn | September 28, 2009 3:01 PM

Dear Senator Harry Reid, are you really part of the Democratic Party? I thought Democrats where supposed to be forward thinking. I hope you won't be a disappointment.

Letter to Senator Michael Bennet on EDNA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009)

I applaud your co-sponsoring of ENDA (S1584). This is an exemplary example of the kind of forward and unbiased thinking we need in this day and age. If only everyone could accept anyone who contributes to the betterment of our society whether they are straight, lesbian, gay, bi or transgendered. As long as they hurt no one, they should have the right to and share, the benefits of contributing to an unbiased society. It may not be the most popular sentiment yet, however it is the right one to support our fellow Americans and their right to contribute to a better society. KUDOS to you and your fellow Senators who do support this cause. I can only hope that more Senators will realize this is the right thing to do for the right reasons. These fellow Americans only want to be a part of a United States where all can help build a better America without prejudice.

Well, apologies for any accusations are in order. But why not also use the opportunity to thank him for his comments and express support for his support for our lives?

As one of my great past bosses Don Keough of The Coca-Cola Company used to say, "You never move ahead by looking only in the rearview mirror."

Yes, good point. I've noted in the body of the blog post the new information and asked that people call to thank him.

As you'll note there, however, I am still unsure about this point regarding the rarity of co-sponsorship. I've reached out to his office (someone from his office emailed me to correct the record this afternoon.)

Jill, as discussed today, I respectfully suggest that you use your energy to convert people who are likely supporters, not probe people already on board. I've only been on Capitol Hill since January, but I know to use energy where it's most likely to derive desired results.

Please trust me with how Congress works as I trust you with what law stuff means. Know your expertise, embrace it, use it and know when to ask rather than to presume. It'll do us all good. We are all of common cause.

We have real targets in need of influence. Sen. Reid is not one. Use the energy where we need it, please, or risk impeding progress that is already underway.

You're doing awesome, Dr. Weiss! keep it up!

Hey, we all make mistakes now and then!