In an effort that has been ongoing for about two-decades, there is a new push for a Senate hearing and a committee vote on the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA). I know I’ve personally been pushing an inclusive ENDA since 1995.
Yes, we know that it is unlikely to get any consideration at all in the House…unless it is negative consideration. But Tom Harkin is chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and he is a longtime supporter of ENDA.
I hope he will use his chairmanship to organize an ENDA hearing this spring or summer.
–Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work
When there’s nothing else going on, it’s always good to try to get a hearing. It keeps the ball moving. It keeps reminding everybody that there are some issues that we all know we have to cover eventually.
–Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality
A hearing could be historic, since no transgender person has ever addressed the Senate on the necessity of ENDA. In 2009 Vandy Beth Glenn addressed the House after being fired from her job as legislative editor of the Georgia General Assembly after she began transition. Recent data collected as revealed that the unemployment rate for transpeople is twice the rate for people who are not transgender. Ninty percent of respondents to the study either experienced discrimination in the workplace or hid their gender identity in order to avoid discrimination.
I vividly remember sitting in the counsel’s chair on the House Labor Committee dais as Vandy Beth Glenn testified somberly about being fired on the same day she told her employer that she planned to transition from male to female. There’s a lot of important education that happens when transgender Americans get to share their stories and talk about their lives.
Keisling said candidates for testifying should be “as fresh as possible”.
A six-month-old case is better than a 20-year-old. It’s a really tough thing. It has to deal with what members of the Senate on the committee, who you’re trying to reach out to, how you balance it geographically and demographically.
According to the bill’s chief sponsor Jeff Merkley (D-OR), all 12 Democrats on the Committee are sponsors of the bll, as is Mark Kirk (R-IL), who is recovering from a stroke suffered in January. The other Republican sponsors of ENDA are Maine’s Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. The bill has 41 sponsors.
The last Senate hearing on ENDA included no transgender witnesses, but assitant attorney general Thomas Perez from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division testified in favor of the bill.
Advocates last year claimed that a floor vote in the Senate could be successful contingent on pressure from President Obama.
Sen. Merkley continues to explore every avenue to make legal discrimination a relic of the past. We cannot discuss private conversations with colleagues, but he will explore every option.
–Merkley spokesperson Julie Edwards
As with all of our priority bills, we constantly work with our allies to find every opportunity to move the ball down the field. A Senate hearing and markup on an inclusive ENDA would represent tremendous progress and we’ve worked with Senators Harkin, Merkley, Kirk and others toward that end.
–Michael Cole-Schwartz, HRC
Harkin has expressed support for an executive order barring government contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
I don’t think the topic of the executive order needs any more study given that the lawyers at President Obama’s Justice Department and Labor Department have already done more than a year’s worth of research and then recommended that the president sign the executive order. It’s now time for President Obama to sign the order.
But an EO won’t remove the need for ENDA.
Push. Push. Push.