ENDA To Be Introduced This Week; Rep. Frank Talks Trans Support, ENDA's Future

Posted by Chris Geidner
March 28, 2011 12:55 PM |

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) plans to introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House on Wednesday, according to two LGBT equality advocates with direct knowledge of the congressman's plans. Frank's communications director, Harry Gural, confirmed that the plans are "to formally announce ENDA this week," although he added over the weekend that specifics are not yet nailed down and were expected to be so by this afternoon.

The bill, which Gural says will be the same exact bill as that introduced in the 111th Congress, would prohibit most employers from discriminating in hiring and promotions on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Frank-RMA.jpgAlthough the bill is not expected to move forward in the House under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Frank, talking with Metro Weekly on Sunday, March 27, says, "It's an organizing tool. Obviously, with the Republicans in power, you're not going to get the bill even considered."

But, Frank -- the longest-serving out member of Congress -- says, "I'm going to be urging people to spend their time talking to those who have voted in the past for ENDA and are supportive of ENDA but where we're not certain they're still with us on the transgender issue."

Talking about the bill's movement -- or lack thereof -- in the 111th Congress, Frank says, "[W]e have work still to do and we have overwhelming -- over 90 percent -- support on the Democratic side for ENDA based on sexual orientation and we had, in the last Congress, about 30 Republicans that way. Unfortunately, there's a drop-off from that number to transgender, and this is a chance to work hard to sway those who are committed to ENDA to support the full transgender inclusion as well."

Additionally, Frank notes, "We got hate crimes done, and we got 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repealed, and you can't do everything at once. And that, in fact, the problem was ... there was a fall-off – a significant one on the Republican side and some on the Democratic side – because the votes may not be there for an inclusive ENDA."

Following up on the introduction earlier this month of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, Frank says with characteristic bluntness, "ENDA will pass before DOMA will be repealed congressionally."

Of concerns that DOMA repeal will take priority over ENDA's passage as legislative efforts move forward, Frank says the premise is "inaccurate," noting, "I believe that, with regard to DOMA, the goal is to win it in court. I do not think there is a good likelihood of getting DOMA repealed through the Congress. I think there is a good likelihood, in a Democratic Congress, of getting an inclusive ENDA.

"And that's the lobbying job for the whole community. Transgender people, lesbian and gay and bisexual people, our straight friends – the focal point should be to make sure that everyone who's supportive of ENDA supports the transgender inclusion."

Read the full Metro Weekly interview below the jump.

[Photo: Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) at the introduction of of the Respect for Marriage Act earlier this month. (Photo by Chris Geidner.)]

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METRO WEEKLY: Are you going to be introducing ENDA this week?

REP. BARNEY FRANK: Yeah, we're definitely going introduce it, [although the specifics regarding timing are still being worked out.]

MW: What do you expect to accomplish this year with ENDA?

FRANK: It's an organizing tool. Obviously, with the Republicans in power, you're not going to get the bill even considered. But, we have work still to do and we have overwhelming – over 90 percent – support on the Democratic side for ENDA based on sexual orientation and we had, in the last Congress, about 30 Republicans that way. Unfortunately, there's a drop-off from that number to transgender, and this is a chance to work hard to sway those who are committed to ENDA to support the full transgender inclusion as well.

This is an organizing effort. I'm going to be urging people to spend their time talking to those who have voted in the past for ENDA and are supportive of ENDA but where we're not certain they're still with us on the transgender issue. So, that’s what – having a bill before you makes it easier to organize people to do that.

MW: What do you expect from the Senate?

FRANK: I am not focusing on the Senate at this point. I'm focusing on the House. The point I'm making is: To get ENDA passed, ultimately, we need to do lobbying among people who are supportive of ENDA to be fully supportive of gender [identity]. We have a majority for ENDA, and most of the people who are for ENDA are for an inclusive ENDA, but not all of them. And that's the lobbying job for the whole community. Transgender people, lesbian and gay and bisexual people, our straight friends – the focal point should be to make sure that everyone who's supportive of ENDA supports the transgender inclusion.

MW: What do you say to the people who say this job should have been done in the 111th Congress?

FRANK: I would say to them: We got hate crimes done, and we got "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repealed, and you can't do everything at once. And that, in fact, the problem was what I just said to you: There was a fall-off – a significant one on the Republican side and some on the Democratic side – because the votes may not be there for an inclusive ENDA.

But I would say that we got two major gains and it's important to keep working on the third. And what we now have identified is that the one remaining issue, which is the fact that we don't have everybody who's for ENDA [supportive of gender identity inclusion]. Advocates have not been able to get that passed in New York, in Massachusetts, in Maryland. When you throw in Nebraska and Mississippi and Texas –

MW: That's what you've told me before –

FRANK: Right. And what we now have is this: We have an agenda of several items. Two of the legislative items have now been accomplished. DOMA is the hardest one to do, and we’ve made progress on DOMA with the president, and I am hoping there is a good chance we will get DOMA invalidated by the courts. So, one of the reasons for reintroducing ENDA now is it is the number one item on our lobbying agenda without any competition in terms of what I think is doable.

MW: What about those who are concerned that DOMA repeal efforts will overtake ENDA passage efforts?

FRANK: I'd say that you seem to want to ask contradictory questions. We're not focusing on DOMA. DOMA is being done – did you hear what I just said? – DOMA is being done in the courts. We're not doing it legislatively.

MW: But you were at the Respect for Marriage Act introduction two weeks ago.

FRANK: The energy is going to be – the chances of passage are greater on ENDA than on DOMA.

MW: So you're saying that is a false concern?

FRANK: I'm saying it's inaccurate. Look at the last two Congresses: We have been pushing ENDA. The fact is, that while it is important to have the legislation on DOMA, I was asked, and said there is no chance to get it passed.

ENDA will pass before DOMA will be repealed congressionally. I believe that, with regard to DOMA, the goal is to win it in court. I do not think there is a good likelihood of getting DOMA repealed through the Congress. I think there is a good likelihood, in a Democratic Congress, of getting an inclusive ENDA. The number of folks we have to shift to get ENDA passed with transgender inclusion is smaller than the number of votes we have to shift to get DOMA repealed. And I have consistently said that all along.


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