August 29, 2007

Can Democrats Produce Results for Gays?

Columnist Deb Price thinks it's time they do:

Congress returns from its August recess soon. And many gay Americans are starting to wonder whether Democrats intend to live up to the "Under new management" sign they hung up at the U.S. Capitol after last November's elections.

With few legislative workdays left before lawmakers become obsessed with the 2008 campaigns, now is the time for Democrats to produce results. And outlawing job discrimination against those of us who're gay should be a top priority.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, remains "very optimistic" ENDA (Employee Non-Discrimination Act) will pass the House and Senate this year.

And lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., says she is "absolutely confident" Democratic leaders will schedule a House vote on ENDA.

Brought up for a vote, the bill is all but certain to pass. National surveys continually show that the vast majority of Americans want to protect workers from being fired simply for being gay. Forty-five percent of House members and 40 percent of senators are from the 20 states that already outlaw such discrimination.

And, as (U.S. Rep.) Andrews points out, most lawmakers--Democrats and Republicans alike -- know and care about gay friends, staffers and relatives. "Fifteen years ago, the issue was, 'Should some gay person be able to get a job as a checkout person in a supermarket?' Now it is about whether your cousin should be able to, or your next-door neighbor," said Andrews, who fondly recalls his lesbian aunt.

"It's hard to find anyone with a straight face in my state -- no pun intended -- who would say someone who runs a supermarket should be able to refuse to hire a gay man or lesbian woman," Andrews said.

It's up to the new management team on Capitol Hill to translate the nation's change of heart into gay-friendly laws. Protecting gay workers would be an excellent start.

Opponents to gay rights often hide behind polls that show a majority of people support that position. That is not the case here, and it's time for Congress to come out of hiding and actually do something constructive this session--pass EDNA.

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