After languishing more than 30 years on Capitol Hill, the Democratic-led House of Representatives defied a veto threat from the White House and votes to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. By a vote of 235-184, the House passed HR 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a possible veto by President George W. Bush. The bill's future in the Senate remains unclear although Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are co-sponsors.
Doug Ireland at the Gay City News: "Despite the historic nature of Wednesday's vote the victory is likely not to calm the deep divisions that emerged within the LGBT community in the preceding six weeks. Many will judge the win Pyrrhic, at best, perhaps even a setback in the longer term."
HR 3685 does not include the protections based barring discrimination based on gender identity and expression that were in the bill originally introduced in February by the House's only two openly gay members, Democrats Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Trans activists, such as Autumn Sandeen at Pam's House Blend, are not celebrating. "It sends me the message that effeminate men, emasculate women, and transgender people like me are just too problematic for Democratic Congressional Leadership to stand up and fight for.
Frank, the bill's sponsor, initially sought trans protection but that was dropped after many realized they did not have the votes, and, the trans policy could sink the bill. "I wish we had the votes in this House to ban discrimination of all sorts," says Frank. "I wish for a lot of things, but I will not act on my wishes irresponsibly,"
The Republican minority sought several procedural motions to derail the bill. One of the most eloquent speakers on the floor was Barney Frank, notes Chris Crain, who "talked about his own felt obligation to adopt ENDA to protect gays in 30 states who can be fired from their jobs based on nothing but their sexual orientation. He dismissed any suggestion that such a measure could have any impact on marriage laws, and pointed out the House had already adopted a friendly amendment that clarified ENDA would have no impact on the Defense of Marriage Act."
Above, civil rights veteran Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) argues in favor of HR 3685 and says America must protect its "gay brothers and sisters." Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) eloquently speaks in support of the Baldwin amendment that would add protections for trans people and is interrupted several times by her Republican colleagues. Jeremy at Good As You has more audio clips.
The roll call record of HR 3685 is here. Thirty-five Republicans joined 200 Democrats voting for the bill, which was approved. Voting against the bill were 25 Democrats and 159 Republicans. Of the 25 Democratic votes against the bill, seven (Clarke, Holt, Michaud, Nadler, Towns, Velazquez, Weiner) were cast because they did not include trans and gender identity protections. Two progressive Democratic representatives, Linda Sanchez (CA) and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, voted against the bill in committee, because of its lack of trans inclusion, but, ultimately supported the bill.
Some Background ...
News: ENDA, Methodists Go Trans [R20]
House Committee Passes ENDA [R20]
Guest Commentary: Rod McCullom [Logo]
Pelosi Guarantees House Vote on "Inclusive" ENDA [R20]
Democratic Debate Addresses Homopohobia, Race [R20]
Democratic Candidates Debate Gay Issues [R20]
Behind the Gay-Friendly Faces [Advocate]
Hillary: The Advocate Interview [R20]
Obama on McClurkin to "The Advocate" [R20]
HRC/Logo Forum: Obama Conference Call [R20]
HRC/Logo Forum: Morning After [R20]