ENDA Reintroduced in Legislature; Lacks Support From Bisexuals
Lead sponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) held a June 24 press conference to announce its fifth reintroduction. ENDA remains the only nondiscrimination bill based on sexual orientation ever to receive a floor vote in the U.S. Congress. ENDA has 35 cosponsors in the Senate and 153 in the House, with more expected.
However, in late July, members of BiNet USA voted at their annual national meeting to withdraw support for the proposed legislation until it includes protections for discrimination based on "gender expression."
"ENDA is inconsistent with BiNet's beliefs," argued the motion, introduced by transgender activist and BiNet Arizona member Monica Helms.
The motion also cited a recent survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force which found that 28% of BGLT people had experienced discrimination based on "gender expression." Many bisexuals could slip through the cracks if ENDA isn't broadened, the motion said.
Under the July vote, BiNet USA will continue to withhold its support for the bill until ENDA's employment discrimination clauses are broadened to include protections based on "gender identity" and "gender expression" as well as sexual orientation.
Lead sponsors include Sens. Jim Jeffords (R-VT), Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT). President Bill Clinton has indicated he supports the bill as well. Standing behind ENDA is the Human Rights Campaign, which cites a poll it commissioned in 1998 as showing 58% of Americans support ENDA's passage.
HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch said, "Congress has the power to end a major injustice," the fact that it remains legal to fire bisexual, gay or lesbian people simply because of "their real or perceived sexual orientation. Most Americans find that abhorrent." The bill would prohibit employers with more than 15 employees from using sexual orientation as the basis of employment decisions, except for religious institutions.
Rep. Frank told the Southern Voice newspaper, based in Atlanta, GA that while the "votes are there" in the House, the Republican majority will never let the bill come to the floor for a vote. But Kevin Ivers, with the Log Cabin Republicans, pointed out that the bill's close 1996 vote happened in a Republican Senate, and its only committee hearing came at the behest of Republican lead sponsor Sen. Jeffords.
The bill's reticence on discrimination against transgendered people, though designed to aid its passage, has sapped its support in BGLT community, with not only BiNet but also the NGLTF and other groups refusing to endorse it.
HRC said it was "saddened" by this lack of support, and indicated it would support an amendment to add gender identity to ENDA's protections, if one were offered. Frank said "no congressional votes will be lost" because of queer groups' non-endorsement of the bill.
-- (Source: BiNet USA and PlanetOut)
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