U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has delayed introduction of legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, saying he would like to secure more cosponsors before moving on the legislation.
Frank was expected to announce the introduction of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act into the U.S. House at a press conference on Wednesday but instead said that he was still gathering support.
As introduced in the 111th Congress, the legislation would bar job discrimination against LGBT people in most situations in the public work sector, though certain exemptions for religious institutions and others would be made.
At the press conference on Wednesday, Frank and other lawmakers were resolved that the measure would not pass the Republican-controlled U.S. House (though there are a number of Republicans who have supported the legislation in the past) but said that reintroduction would provide a chance to educate lawmakers about the public’s support for an inclusive nondiscrimination law.
From The Washington Blade:
“This is a chance to continue — not begin, but continue — a lobbying effort that I am convinced will be successful, frankly, next time the Democrats take back the House of Representatives,” Frank said.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a planned original co-sponsor of ENDA, called for continued lobbying and education on ENDA for at least two years under GOP control to ensure its passage in later years.
“I think it’s very important we introduce this legislation, that we begin the process anew, that we don’t have a big gap of activity on behalf on ending this discrimination,” Miller said.
Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Education & Workforce Committee, said the process should begin again so that “we no longer continue to live in a country where depending on where you live, your employers can legally fire, refuse to hire, demote or pass over you for promotion based upon your sexual orientation or gender [identity].”
There was bitter disappointment that the previous Democratically-controlled Congress could not muster enough support to move the legislation, especially given a consensus of support among the American public.
In the article Frank cites a “traffic jam” problem due to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” not going as smoothly as was hoped, and also that it would have been a waste of time to pass the bill in the House only for it to never be taken up in the Senate where support always remained quite a few votes short of what was needed.
Language covering gender identity has been a sticking point for many legislators and Rep. Miller conceded that, while great strides have been made to educate legislators on the issue, more work will be needed. Advocates of the bill have maintained that they would refuse to support legislation that omitted protections for the trans community.
While support for ENDA remains strong among the general public, it is unlikely that Congress will provide a remedy for workplace discrimination in the near future.
Recognizing this, advocates would like President Obama to sign an executive order extending workplace protections to LGBT workers. This would not replace an Act of Congress as it would only impact groups contracting with the federal government, but there is precedent for such a move and it would help to set the tone for the future advancement of ENDA. You can read more on that here.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Col.) last week said that he supports the executive order and that it would be a “courageous” step for the Administration to take.
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