October 02, 2007

Fully Inclusive ENDA Gets a Reprieve

From The Adovcate:

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Monday saying she would postpone advancing the latest version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that includes protections for gays and lesbians but excludes transgender people. The bill was scheduled for markup in committee on Tuesday, at which point it would have been sent to the House floor for a vote.

“After discussions with congressional leaders and organizations supporting passage of ENDA, we have agreed to schedule mark-up of the bill in the Committee on Education and Labor later this month, followed by a vote in the full House,” Pelosi said in press release. “This schedule will allow proponents of the legislation to continue their discussions with Members in the interest of passing the broadest possible bill.”

The move was a nod to a critical mass of LGBT activists who came forward to adamantly oppose passing a version of ENDA that lacks transgender-inclusive language.

I appreciate the feedback I received from my recent post about the Democrats presenting a version of ENDA without gender identity protection, and let me clearly state my wish that a law that protects ALL people from discrimination in the workplace can get through Congress and force President Bush to make a decision about signing it.

I found this report on 365gay.com that details just how watered down the compromise version of ENDA is:

In addition to the missing protections for transgender people on the job, the new bill also leaves out a key element to protect any employee, including lesbians and gay men who may not conform to their employer's idea of how a man or woman should look and act.

This is a huge loophole through which employers sued for sexual orientation discrimination can claim that their conduct was actually based on gender expression, a type of discrimination that the new bill does not prohibit, said Lambda.

The new version of ENDA also states without qualification that refusal by employers to extend health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of their employees that are provided only to married couples cannot be considered sexual orientation discrimination.

This is approaching the point of "why bother" if there are too many loopholes. Let's hope GLBT advocates can successfully use this additonal time to lobby for a bill that will really make a difference.

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