Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Is ENDA Back?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | January 13, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: Barney Frank, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, George Miller, House Committee on Education and Labor, HR 3017, Jared Polis, Nancy Pelosi, Tammy Baldwin

With Thumbnail image for monopoly jail.jpgCongress set to resume operations next Monday, the big question on the LGBT legislative agenda is whether ENDA is back.

When I ask "Is ENDA back?" I don't simply mean "Does ENDA exist?" To be or not to be is simply not the question. ENDA does exist -- it's safely behind bars in the basement jail over at the House Committee on Labor and Education -- but existing is very different from getting out of Committee jail and passing into law.

Will the Powers-That-Be push for it, or will they continue to give lip-service while letting it die amongst the ultra-crowded legislative agenda?

I don't know the answer to this question, and the DC crowd is being remarkably tight-lipped about it. The House Committee hasn't scheduled it for a markup yet, which means it's not yet on deck for next week, since 72 hours notice is required for a markup. When it does go for a markup, I plan to liveblog that hearing.

In addition, the Domestic Partnership Benefits law that will cover LGBT federal workers is expected to go first, though according to the DC Agenda, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry hasn't yet provided offset savings in his department , a necessary precursor to the bill's Senate floor vote. He's expected to "early this year." Yes, but how early? When I talked last year to Allison Herwitt, HRC's legislative director, she told me that the offset savings would be easy to find, and yet Mr. Berry came to the Congressional hearings without the info, which disappointed a lot of supporters of the DPBO bill. And there still is no offset, which means more delays for ENDA.

There are some hopeful signs, in that there are some organizations taking particularly effective action to push ENDA forward. And what is that effective action? I'll tell you what it's not. It's not calling your local Representative who already always supported ENDA.

The problem with ENDA is not the House. The House is ready to go, with well over the majority needed to pass the bill. The House is waiting on the Senate. The thinking over at the House is that there's no sense jumping on the ENDA bandwagon, only to have it go over a cliff when the Senate refuses to vote on it because there's not a majority. By my calculations from last year, which could be entirely outdated at this point, given the speed at which things change in DC, I counted 56 likely yes votes, and 9 potential yes votes. If that's the case, then there are not enough votes in the Senate.

I think that we can get those last 4 votes in the Senate. I know there are those of you, dear readers, who disagree with me and say that it's impossible. But when I look at who these 9 are, I do believe that at least 4 of them are fair-minded enough to vote for equality -- if their constituents will ask them to. We are going to need to get smart and get targeted. Smart and targeted advocacy is what can win the day here.

Here's an example of the type of advocacy that I believe can be most effective in this campaign for ENDA.

Here in California, the Task Force and the Transgender Law Center seek volunteers to call constituents in key congressional districts. In Los Angeles, the Task Force will host eight phonebanks this month:

When: Sunday, January 10, 17, 24, 31 from 2pm to 5pm; and Thursday, January 7, 14, 21, 28 from 630pm to 930pm.
Location: 2801 Hyperion Avenue, Los Angeles
For more information: call Rodrigo at 305.904.2392.

In San Francisco, the Transgender Law Center will host two phonebanks:

When: Tuesday, January19 & Wednesday, January 20, from 6-9pm.
Location: 870 Market Street, Room 822, San Francisco
For more information: email maceo@transgenderlawcenter.org

Now that's smart and targeted advocacy. It makes sense to be calling people in the states where the Senate votes needed to be gained, and asking them to support ENDA and call their Senators. It makes no sense for me to spend my limited advocacy time calling Senator Gillibrand's office. She's totally on board, and has been forever. I hope more organizations will opt for this kind of advocacy, rather than the blowhardy "hey, gang, let's all call our Congressmen!" hip-hip-hooray kind of stuff I've seen that soaks up people's time and efforts, only to be disappointed because they keep hearing about how ENDA is delayed and delayed. If people understood what the hold up is --i.e., the Senate -- and which states could make a difference -- i.e., AK, AR, FL, IN, NC, ND, OH and WV -- then they might have a sense of progress when one of those moves.

Next week I will resume my daily ENDA posts here on Bilerico, to keep you up to date on how to get ENDA passed. I will try to give you that smart and targeted approach so you know your advocacy time is well spent.

I hope you will join us in getting ENDA through, and having your friends join us. This can happen, but only if we all pull together.

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I will likely get blasted for this, but here goes:

I hope I am wrong, but I suspect ENDA is dead, at least for the forseeable future. The current judicial and legislative 'spotlight' is focused on exclusively on marriage equality. Equal employment rights are forced into taking a seat at the back of the bus, if it is even on the bus at all. Somehow, I would think the right to have non-discrimination of everyone, including LGBT citizens, in employment is far and away more important than having marriage equality. The LGBT "powers" apparently disagree.

My problem is I have not had a job for 2 years (not for any lack of trying!). Unemployment compensation (which is barely keeping me afloat financially) will end eventually.

Having marriage equality will not put a roof over my head, food on my table, or clothes on my back. In short,marriage equality won't do me or any other unemployed LGBT person a damn bit of good. I may well want marriage equality personally at some point, but right now I NEED A JOB!

Donna Pandori Donna Pandori | January 13, 2010 1:12 PM

Jenny - I agree we need equality across the board but the U.S. unemployment rate is steady at 10%. This may be contributing to your inability to secure employment.

I disagree with your analysis that the house and senate are focused securing marriage equality for lgbt.

Donna, I think you misread her comment. "The LGBT "powers" apparently disagree." does not mean the House and Senate but the LGB activist community.

Donna has her finger on it regarding jobs. She's right about the Congress too. The House and Senate are not focusing on any kind of equality for LGBT.

I support the President (still), but the thing is he sends me tweets and emails about this that and the other, but not once have I received a communication from Organizing for America urging me to contact legislators on behalf of ENDA.

I suspect they want to see how the politics play out with DADT, once that is attached to the defense appropriations bill. That will give the leadership a better idea of how much political traction the arguments against are *really* getting, and who and where.

(Of course that presupposes DADT is *really* getting attached to appropriations. Fingers crossed, and we should know soon either way.)

Thank-you Jillian for asking people to call constituents, instead of Politicians. That's the only thing that will actually work.

Changing the "polls" is the only change we can believe in.

I think the powers-that-be in Gay Inc are actually scrambling to find a way to get ENDA passed. I think they all know their futures depend on it - their employment!

WE are "the powers-that-be" Bil. Gay Inc. doesn't have some magic formula they've been hiding. WE can't get past the current US Senate.

It's a lot more help, in your capacity, to encourage our community to figure out how to solve our struggle, than suggest Gay Inc. has the "secret" and won't use it.

How about thinking beyond shifting responsibility to someone or something else. Our equality is OUR responsibility.

We've spent 40-50 years thinking someone else will do the job. It's time we did the job.


So glad you did this post (and to see something else emphasized within our community given the ongoing same-sex marriage stuff going on right now).

From the link you provided, I see that one of my senators (Voinovich - OH) is marked as undecided, which I hadn't known until now.

Looking forward to more posts from you about ENDA.

The latest from Barney Frank:

“There continues to be concerns on the part of many members about the transgender issue, particularly about the question of places where people are without their clothes — showers, bathrooms, locker rooms, etc.,” said Frank. “We still have this issue about what happens when people who present themselves as one sex but have the physical characteristics of the other sex, what rules govern what happens in locker rooms, showers, etc.”