The long-stalled and ever suffering Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will see reintroduction finally in the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday. After years of obstruction, indecision. lack of leadership, and problems despite the fact that President Obama and his administration have done no work in pushing the legislation.
ENDA which has been introduced in every session of Congress except one since 1994 will be introduced in the House and Senate with bipartisan support. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) will be joined by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) as original sponsors of the bill. In the House, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fl.) will introduce the bill.
“The bottom line is no worker in America should be fired or denied a job based on who they are. Discrimination is wrong. Period. And I think the Senate is ready to take that stand,” said Merkley.
Earlier in the week Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade pressed White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about specifics on what Obama has done in the past year to build support for ENDA, Carney touted the president’s commitment to LGBT rights and support for the legislation — without naming any specific initiative to build support for it.
Beyond the messaging, no work from the White House to build support for ENDA has been evident to supporters of the bill as the administration has pushed for gun control and comprehensive immigration reform in the past year. A Reuters article published earlier this month quoted Valerie Jarrett as saying ENDA “is a priority,” but also reported that congressional aides see little evidence the White House is pushing to win support.
Translation. The Obama administration has done jack.
Said Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Work:
“It would be great to hear President Obama make the case for ENDA in his own words, explaining how LGBT workplace fairness creates benefits for both America’s businesses and LGBT employees. It would be helpful for the president and other members of the administration to start publicly challenging both chambers of Congress to bring ENDA to a vote this year, and the White House legislative team could start urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to find Senate floor time for an ENDA vote this summer.
And while ENDA may receive quick action in the Senate the real battle will come in the House, where Republican leadership has opposed ENDA every step of the way and given no indication it will bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
“I fully expect this session ENDA will have more support than ever before,” Polis said, Polis, who is now the most senior LGBT member of the House, believes that by increasing bipartisan support for ENDA they will be able to pressure House leadership to bring the bill for a vote.
Should the Senate pass ENDA, Polis and Ros-Lehtinen could subvert obstruction by Republican leaders by launching a discharge petition a rare legislative procedure, but if theyu can collect 218 signatures they would be able to bring the bill to a vote without the approval of House leadership.
Once again it looks like a long hard fight to get ENDA passed. A fight we will all have to join in.
Sources: Metroweekly and the Washington Blade