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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 31 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 05
ENDA? 'No way!' Boehner says - President also omits ENDA from SOTU
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ENDA? 'No way!' Boehner says - President also omits ENDA from SOTU

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Republican House Speaker John Boehner told members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus there was 'no way' he would allow ENDA - the Employment Non-Discrimination Act - to come up for a vote in 2014.

'A number of us did meet with, actually the caucus met with Speaker Boehner,' openly Gay Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA) told the Washington Blade. 'He said no way was it going to get done in this session.'

The LGBT Equality Caucus includes 113 members of Congress, not all of them LGBT. The meeting with Boehner was 'a historic sort of meeting,' Takano said.

ENDA would add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights laws covering employment.

The measure has had a complicated legislative history. A version that omitted protections for Transgender workers passed the House in 2007, but was not taken up by the Senate because then-President George W. Bush promised to veto it.

In 2009, a Trans-inclusive bill was introduced, but it failed to get a committee hearing in the House, even though Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a strong supporter of the measure.

The Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee did hold a hearing on their version of the bill, however. The Senate passed a Trans-inclusive ENDA in November, in a bipartisan 64-32 vote, leaving the ultimate fate of the bill up to a hostile Republican House leadership.

LGBT activists also noted that ENDA was omitted from President Obama's State of the Union speech January 28.

'The President's message tonight failed to address the needs of LGBT workers looking for a fair shake in this economy,' HRC said in a statement. 'Not only was there no call for the House to pass a federal law to protect LGBT workers nationwide, President Obama also sidestepped his commitment to take action where Congress has left off, leaving out an order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors.'

HRC and other LGBT organization had been pressing Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to adopt nondiscrimination guidelines that include sexual orientation and gender identity - much as he did for the $10.10 minimum wage.

'No federal contractor, like ExxonMobil, should be able to take billions in taxpayer dollars without safeguards in place to prevent discrimination,' HRC said.

The Task Force also urged the President to 'sign an executive order that bans discrimination against the same contract workers who are LGBT.'

Citing his executive order on the minimum wage, the Task Force noted what they called an 'irony' - that 'some LGBT federal contract workers will get a pay raise, but they could still be fired for who they are and who they love. The longer the President waits, the more damage LGBT people will face; discrimination is a painful reality that is too often the lived experience of LGBT people. The President has to act when Congress won't.'

White House spokesperson Jay Carney defended President Obama's commitment to LGBT rights in a statement to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to an event in Pittsburgh.

'When it comes to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, he is fiercely supportive of that effort, enormously gratified by the fact the Senate took action and very hopeful that the House will follow suit,' Carney said.

'Because as I've said many times, reflecting his opinion, members of the House who block this are being left at the station as the train moves forward on what would obviously be an America where equal rights are extended to all Americans.

'So I think his record on LGBT rights is crystal-clear, his position is crystal-clear, and he continues to press Congress to take action on ENDA.'

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