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heads to full House vote without
Baldwin to offer measure to restore them
Washington, D.C.--The controversial version of the gay and lesbian Employment Non-Discrimination Act that doesn’t include transgender people passed the House Education and Labor Committee last week and is expected to have a full House vote by month’s end.
The bill is what the House Democratic leadership wanted, but was overwhelmingly rejected by LGBT advocacy organizations, except the Human Rights Campaign, because it lacks protection on the basis of gender identity that was in the original bill.
An amendment to restore transgender protection will be offered when it comes to a House vote by Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the House’s only lesbian member and a critic of the strategy to pass the non-inclusive version.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team, which includes gay Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, became concerned about the original, transgender-inclusive bill after a hate crime bill--which includes transgender people--passed earlier this year.
While the hate crime bill passed, the margins were tighter than expected, and Pelosi thinks transgender inclusiveness is the reason.
The Democratic leaders think transgender inclusion is too difficult a vote for their more conservative freshman members who beat incumbent Republicans in 2006 in districts carried by Bush.
The Democratic leadership, which promised passage of the ENDA in December, believes it would be a strategic embarassment to them if they had to pull the bill off the table, so the non-transgender bill was substituted by Frank.
The exercise is somewhat academic, as the White House indicated on October 23 that President George W. Bush will probably veto the measure.
But amid the protests from the LGBT community, the non-inclusive bill is moving forward.
Baldwin says Pelosi supports her amendment.
“The speaker is on board with the amendment,” said Baldwin. “Members wanted an opportunity to vote on transgender inclusion, and the amendment created the opportunity.”
“It also gives a roll call vote to see where the support lies and clarify the work ahead of us,” Baldwin continued.
Baldwin added, “It’s going to be an uphill battle. The amendment will get strong support, but it is tougher to add something than to protect something already there”--a reference to the original bill.
“We should not be so timid about protecting transgender people,” Baldwin said.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland is the only Ohioan on the Education and Labor Committee. He is also an original co-sponsor of the transgender-inclusive ENDA.
Kucinich agrees with Baldwin that the original bill should not have been pulled back.
“It’s fear,” Kucinich said of the leadership strategy.
The non-inclusive bill passed the committee October 18 by a vote of 27 to 21, with Kucinich voting against it as a protest.
“And so today when we’re confronted with this legislation, we should be mindful that discrimination of any kind is un-American and should not be tolerated,” Kucinich told the committee.
“I stand with the principles of the LGBT community to defend against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Kucinich continued.
Kucinich said he cannot recall any member of the committee speaking against transgender inclusion.
“I would not have split this bill,” said Kucinich. “I would have reached out to Republican leadership in an attempt to not politicize this.”
“But some in leadership are worried about the spin,” Kucinich said.
Kucinich said he will vote for ENDA with or without the Baldwin amendment when it gets to the House floor, and that he expects it will pass.
“But why let something like this split the [LGBT] coalition?” Kucinich opined. “It’s so unfair.”