We do not expect that any additional action will be taken by Congress on any version of ENDA before the end of the year. Still, there is quite a bit of work happening in DC and around the country to make sure that when ENDA does come up again in 2009 or 2010, there will be support from a majority of Congresspeople and there will be no question about introducing and supporting the transgender-inclusive bill that is so strongly supported by the LGBT community. Many people are working towards the same goal: Secure the unequivocal support of at least 218 members of the U.S. House and 60 members of the Senate for an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that protects all LGBT people.
In addition to important work happening in DC, individuals and local action teams across the country are doing grassroots organizing in particularly significant districts and states. People are developing closer relationships with their representatives as well as candidates who may become new members of Congress. While much of the work underway is primarily not high profile, publicly visible work, it is laying the groundwork for future action as we get closer to bill introduction.
Nothing Will Happen in Congress This Year.
Barring something totally unknown, there will not be any more voting on any ENDA this year. There simply is so little time left on the legislative calendar and so many significant issues, that it is a virtual certainty that no more LGBT bills—certainly not ENDA—will be considered until at least 2009. The Senate will not take up either the broken ENDA that passed the House of Representatives or the inclusive version supported by the LGBT community. And the House of Representatives will not be considering any additional ENDA bills this year.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to be done this year and scores of organizations and thousands of individuals are doing it. In DC, NCTE and others will continue to work with Congressional allies as we strengthen the community’s position for the 111th Congress that starts in January. We outline below some of the great work being done this year in preparation for future action and how people across the country can get involved.
When Will ENDA be Considered Again?
Other than knowing that it will not be this year, there is no way to know for sure when ENDA will be considered again in either the House or the Senate. It would be reasonable to guess, though, there is little likelihood of action early next year. There are still too many unknowns to forecast accurately. How many pro-equality members of Congress will there be next year? Who will be the President and how much, if at all, will he support ENDA? And probably most importantly, how hard will we all work and how much absolutely solid support will we have by the time we need it? So in addition to the remainder of this year, it is likely that the community will have at least some months next year before decisions are made about which ENDA is introduced and possibly moved toward passage.
What is Happening?
Much great work has already been done and more is yet underway. Below is a summary of some of the great work being done already.
Congressional Hearings. In June, as most people in the community know, a hearing was held in the U.S. House around transgender employment discrimination. Rep. Rob Andrews from NJ, chaired the hearings with support from a host of other members of Congress, especially including Reps. Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin who testified effectively and eloquently about the need for job protections. Congressman Frank was also a real driving force overall, showing tremendous commitment to having these hearings and making sure they went well.
Local Action. NCTE and a coalition of other national, state and local organizations have been working to identify and support local action teams in various districts and states across the country. Local action teams are made up of trans people as well as allies who develop ongoing relationships with their representatives and educate them about the need for employment protections for all LGBT people. They are also educating the public in their districts using letters to the editor, op-eds and other kinds of outreach. We have been initially focusing on particular members of Congress whose support is specifically pivotal to passage of ENDA, but individuals pitching in and local action teams are important in every part of the country regardless of who your members of Congress are. Please let NCTE know if you want to be part of this.
Survey of the Prevalence of Transgender Discrimination. Within the next two weeks, NCTE, in collaboration with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, will be launching the first-ever academically sound national survey of the prevalence of discrimination in all its forms. Trans people around the country will be surveyed and the results used, among other things, to educate Congress on the need for the unified inclusive ENDA. We are frequently asked for “numbers” by Congress and soon we will have them. Please watch for this survey and take the time to complete a questionnaire. It really matters and will help get ENDA passed.
Surveying Voters in Target Districts. One national organization, working with NCTE and others, is about to begin surveying voters in targeted districts on the issue of a fully-inclusive ENDA.
Influencing Congressional Campaigns. When LGBT people and allies volunteer with campaigns or work with organizations who endorse candidates, they have a great opportunity to educate the candidates who are current and prospective members of Congress. That is happening all over the country. If you do volunteer work on any campaign for any candidate in any party, please remember to educate the candidate on the importance of job protections for all LGBT people. Ask the campaign to clearly state there support on their website. Here is what some candidates have placed on their websites in support of the unified ENDA bill [Note: this should not be interpreted as an endorsement by NCTE of any candidate for any office]:
“I support the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (I support the version of ENDA that includes gender identity).” Chellie Pingree, Democratic nominee in the first District of Maine.
“. . . I support federal legislation that would prohibit discrimination in employment practices because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identify. This is not only about workers’ rights – it’s about human rights and human dignity. I believe in tolerance and understanding and strongly oppose employment discrimination on the basis of race, age, disability, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.” Jared Polis, Democratic Nominee in the 2nd District of Colorado.
“In Congress, I will champion pro-equality legislation such as the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act and a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), since all Americans deserve equal protection under the law.” Dennis Shulman, Democratic Nominee in the Fifth District of NJ.
The National Center for Transgender Equality is doing the work of educating the public and Congress in order to pass the comprehensive Employment Non-Discrimination Act that will protect all LGBT people from discrimination and the financial and emotional ruin that it can cause. We are doing our own work as well as supporting and coordinating the work of a lot of other great trans people and allies—individuals and organizations. We continue to be proudly at the center of the UnitedENDA coalition.
What Can You Do to Help Pass ENDA?
Right now the answer is easy. Educate your members of Congress and candidates for Congress that transgender people, like other LGBT people, need federal discrimination protection. Visit the local office of your member of the House of Representatives and your two U.S. Senators. To learn who your members of Congress are and how to contact them, go to our website at http://www.nctequality.org/Visit_Legislators.html. While you are on that website, download a copy of NCTE’s publication “Making Your Voice Heard: A Transgender Guide to Educating Congress.”
You should also work for the candidate of your choice and educate them about transgender people and our lives.
Furthermore, you can work with and support your local or statewide transgender or LGBT organization that is doing important work to pass an inclusive ENDA.
Finally, support NCTE’s work by making a donation at http://www.nctequality.org/donate.html