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ENDA bill in the house (2009)

Review, introduced, status, hearing, testimony by members of congress, etc.

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If signed into law, the bill would make it illegal for employers to hire, refuse to hire, fire, demote or refuse to promote an individual based on his or her real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

GLBT is an acronym for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

2009-JUN-24: ENDA bill introduced to House:

Three openly gay U.S. Representatives: Barney Frank (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Jared Polis (D-CO), along with eight other House members, reintroduced an inclusive employment non-discrimination bill that prohibits "employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity." If signed into law, it would protect equally individuals whose:

bulletSexual orientation is heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, or gay, and whose
bulletGender identity is cis-gendered or transgender.

The bill, H.R. 3017, 1 has at least 118 co-sponsors as of 2009-JUN-24, at least six of whom are Republican.

It has been referred to the House Education and Labor Committee, House Administration Committee, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and House Judiciary Committee. 1

At a news conference, Rep. Frank said:

"We can now take for granted that there will be a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, almost certainly this calendar year, on a fully inclusive ENDA. ... We are on track to pass this bill in the House this year." 2

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said:

"It will be the first piece of major LGBT civil rights legislation ever enacted by this Congress. And once that is in the statute, we don't have any justification for all the other types of discrimination that exists."

"So this piece of legislation is incredibly powerful. It's saying once and for all we know that this discrimination and this bigotry exists, we see it, there's clear evidence, it is wrong, and now, with our work, it will become illegal." 2

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)said:

"Discriminating against people on the basis of race, gender, or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity is simply inefficient and puts American businesses at a disadvantage in the global economy. By passing ENDA, we can be sure that American businesses will have access to and hire the very best and brightest to be able to compete and build leaders through those organizations." 2

Status of the bill:

bulletThe House Education & Labor Committee held hearings on ENDA during 2009-SEP-23.
bulletThe markup for the bill in the House Education & Labor Committee is scheduled before Thanksgiving.
bulletA floor vote in the House is likely to happen shortly after that.

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2009-SEP-23: House hearing held:

The House Education and Labor Committee held its first full committee hearing on the ENDA bill:

Witnesses include:

bulletU.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), an openly lesbian member of the House.
bulletU.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), an openly gay member of the House.
bulletHon. Stuart J. Ishimaru, Acting Chairman U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
bulletWilliam Eskridge, the John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence Yale Law School.
bulletVandy Beth Glenn, a transgender person who was fired from her Georgia state legislative job. when she told her supervisor she was transitioning from male to female.
bulletCamille Olson, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, a specialist in employment discrimination. She has repeatedly been named as one of the "Nation's Most Powerful Employment Attorneys" by Human Resource Executive and LawDragon..
bulletCraig Parshall, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the National Religious Broadcasters Association -- a conservative group restricted to Christian broadcasters to the exclusion of membership of other faiths.
bulletRabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
bulletBrad Sears, Executive Director Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.

Curiously, there were only two representatives from religious denominations or para-church organizations: one representing Reform Judaism, and the other representing conservative Christian broadcasters. This is a pity, because faith groups have taken a range of positions on this bill. Religious liberals show overwhelming support; religious conservatives are generally opposed to protections for GLBT persons. It would be of interest to hear their reasons for their support or opposition, and their thoughts on why faith groups should warrant an exclusion so that they could continue to discriminate in employing people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Committee on Education and Labor has placed the full text of all testimonies online. 7

Chairperson of the House committee comments on ENDA:

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the chairperson of the House Education & Labor Committee said the measure would:

"... ensure that employment decisions are based on merit and performance and not prejudice."

"Fully qualified individuals are being denied employment or are being fired from their jobs for completely non-work-related reasons. This is profoundly unfair and, indeed, un-American. And, it is bad for business."

Miller stated that people can be freely fired because of their sexual orientation in 29 states and because of their gender identity in 38 states. 5

Positive testimonies by representatives of congress & the administration:

bulletRep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is a sponsor of ENDA and is openly gay said:

"I find it hard to argue for legislation that bans discrimination. It just seems to be so self-evident that an American who would like to work and support himself or herself ought to be allowed to be judged solely on his or her work ethic and talent that I don't know what more to say. ... There is no more reason to discriminate against someone because he or she is transgender than because he or she is gay or lesbian or any other category. ..." 5

"Let me just say to my colleagues -- there's nothing to be afraid of. These are our fellow human beings. They aren't asking you for anything other, in this bill, than the right to earn a living. Can't you give them that?"

"If you don't like them, if you don't want to be friends, I think you're missing out on something but that's your choice. But how can we, as the people who make the laws in this wonderful country, under our great constitution, say to one small group of our fellow citizens - "You know, there's something about you that some people don't like, so you are not eligible for work? You can be fired. You can't get a promotion." I cannot understand why anybody would want to say that to a group of our fellow citizens. And that's all that this bill does. Thank you." 6

bulletRep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who is openly lesbian, said:

"There is a clear record demonstrating the need for these protections: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees are harassed, fired, not hired and passed over for advancement without regard to their merit." 5

She cited a 2007 study from the American Civil Liberties Union. It found that nearly 30 percent of LGBT workers reported that they experience workplace discrimination; One in four said they experience it on a weekly basis.

bulletStuart Ishimaru, acting chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission {EEOC] gave the Administration's:

"... strong support for legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."

"Unfortunately, this right remains elusive, or almost non-existent for many Americans, because of the lack of federal legislation explicitly prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment," Ishimaru said. "Study after study has shown that employment discrimination against LGBT individuals remains a significant problem."

He said that the EEOC "regularly" hears from Americans who say they feel they've been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but his office has to inform these complainants that federal laws provide them no explicit protection. 5

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Text of "H.R. 3017: Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009," GovTrack at: http://www.govtrack.us/ It is also available at http://www.gpo.gov/
  2. Lou Chibbaro, Jr., "Another shot for ENDA: Frank says trans-inclusive bill 'on track' to pass this year," The Washington Blade, 2009-JUN-24, at: http://www.washblade.com/
  3. "Saperstein Testifies in Support of Employment Non-Discrimination Act," Text of speech by Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://rac.org/
  4. Eric Fingerhut, "Saperstein testifies for ENDA," Capital J, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://blogs.jta.org/
  5. Chris Johnson, "House hears ENDA testimony. Frank, Baldwin push for trans-inclusive bill at hearing," Washington Blade, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://www.sovo.com/
  6. Austen Crowder, "Congressional hearing on ENDA: great success," Bilerico Project, 2009-SEP-23, at:  http://www.bilerico.com
  7. "H.R. 3017, Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009. Full Committee Hearing," Committee on Education & Labor, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://edlabor.house.gov/

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Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2009-AUG-07
Latest update: 2009-NOV-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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