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Gay employment protections pass House
Historic victory marred by trans exclusion

by Matt Comer . Q-Notes staff

Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) speaks at a post-ENDA vote press conference attended by ENDA sponsors and HRC President Joe Solmonese.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Nov. 7, the U.S. House passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) including protections for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees.

The historic 235-184 vote was the first time the bill was able to pass the House since first being introduced more than 30 years ago. However, the landmark legislative victory is marred by concerns that the bill fails to include protections for transgender employees.

Masen Davis, the executive director of the Transgender Law Center (TLC), expressed disappointment in how the bill was handled.

“Despite tireless efforts to craft and pass a bill to protect all LGBT Americans from discrimination, the final bill was stripped of gender-identity provisions and contained broad religious exemptions,” said Davis. “This was not the bill any of us had hoped for.”

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, whose organization led efforts to keep a trans-inclusive ENDA through the “United ENDA” campaign, said he was disappointed in House leadership.

“We are deeply disappointed that House leadership decided to ignore the position of a vast majority of LGBT organizations, ignore the legal assessment that this bill may not even provide adequate protections for gays, lesbians and bisexuals and ignore the fact that this vote might make it more difficult to persuade members of Congress to support a fully inclusive bill in the future,” he said.

Although Foreman and other leaders had been claiming the majority of LGBT individuals supported a fully inclusive ENDA, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released on the day of the vote numbers from a survey they conducted on Oct. 26. According to HRC, 70 percent of those surveyed said they’d rather have an exclusionary ENDA than no ENDA at all.

Journalists Rex Wockner (independent journalist) and Cynthia Laird (Bay Area Reporter) raised questions over the HRC survey and asked the organization to release specific information such as exact survey questions, who conducted the survey, the source of participants and the margin of error. HRC has refused to release any of the information.

In order to become law, ENDA must pass the Senate and be signed by President George W. Bush. At press time, a Senate version of ENDA had yet to be introduced and Bush has vowed to veto any version of the bill. Two-thirds of the House and Senate must vote to override a presidential veto.

Members of the Carolinas Democratic Congressional delegation voting against ENDA included Reps. Mike McIntyre and Heath Shuler. Not a single Republican from North or South Carolina voted for the bill.

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