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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 21, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 51
A holiday wish for ENDA progress
Section One
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A holiday wish for ENDA progress

by Mark Segal - Philadelphia Gay News

Usually just before Christmas, columnists wax poetic about the holidays or what religion means to humanity, but let's talk ENDA and the possibility of an executive order on nondiscrimination by President Obama until Congress passes such legislation. Oh, and for good measure, let's add in the fiscal cliff and Republicans. All of this is related in passing nondiscrimination for the more than half of all U.S. LGBT citizens who live in places where LGBT discrimination is still legal. And this little gem, which I hope will give you conversation as you go from one holiday event or family gathering to another, will serve as my gift to you.

First, the governance drill. The Employment Nondiscrimination Act must pass both houses of Congress and then be signed into law by the president. While ENDA is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats, it will need Republican votes in Congress as well. It is generally believed that it can pass the Senate, but the House is a different story. First, you need the Republican votes, and then you need the Republican leadership of the House to agree to bring the legislation up for possible hearings, a vote out of committee, and then a full vote. And this is where that problem lies.

Have you watched Republican Majority Leader John Boehner attempt to deal with his caucus over the fiscal cliff? Well, imagine him on ENDA. He'd have to be a very strong supporter of equality to use his political capital on ENDA. Another leader is Rep. Eric Cantor from Virginia, but he's more aligned with his Tea Party constituents.

And who can make them move? Well, the natural thought would be an LGBT Republican organization that has influence with the Republican leadership, but sadly, neither Log Cabin nor GOProud seem to have that. So, thanks to Republicans, we are stalled in Congress.

OBAMA MUST ACT
Therefore, until we get to a point where Congress will act, our only hope is an executive order from the president. That order will do little for most Americans - it's mainly symbolic. But it's something rather than nothing. The president, like Congressional leaders, will have to use some of his good will (political capital) to do this. So the timing needs to be correct, though activists don't like waiting. But hey, activists need something to complain about, so why not go after the president rather than the real culprits?

There are a few points here that should be clear. It's the Republicans who have stalled immigration reform, but unlike the Latino community, our activists (and specifically our Republican activists) don't have the clout that the Latino lobby seems to have. But part of the reason for that is the Hispanic community has focused on that one issue - immigration reform - and won over public support. Our community activists have focused on marriage equality, and therefore most elected officials and the public think of that as our legislative priority.

With marriage equality now before the U.S. Supreme Court, maybe our friends in what is sometimes referred to as 'Gay, Inc.' - and I mean no disrespect by that term - could employ a focus similar to that of the Hispanic community and concentrate on this one issue, an injustice that literally leaves at least one million LGBT Americans facing the possible loss of their homes and livelihoods.

Merry ENDA holiday to all.

Mark Segal is publisher of Philadelphia Gay News. He can be reached at mark@epgn.com.

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