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Kerry and challenger agree on ENDA

by Ethan Jacobs
Saturday Apr 12, 2008

The debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) may have caused a schism between the country's LGBT advocacy organizations, but in this fall's Massachusetts Democratic primary race for the Senate both Sen. John Kerry and his challenger, Ed O'Reilly, are on the same page in terms of their positions on ENDA. Both candidates support passing a transgender-inclusive version of ENDA, but in the short term both also support the passage of the version of ENDA that Sen. Ted Kennedy plans to bring up in the Senate, a version that only includes protections based on sexual orientation.

Both candidates explained their support for the sexual orientation-only version of ENDA this year as a necessary compromise.

"We've been fighting more than 20 years to get these civil rights protections passed, and Massachusetts has always been in the forefront. After more than a decade of trying to pass ENDA under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, I think we're finally at a point where, under Democratic leadership and with support from Massachusetts leaders, we finally have a good chance of passing a bill this year," wrote Kerry in a statement to Bay Windows. "Barney Frank, Ted Kennedy, and I know this bill isn't all we wanted it to be. We were among the first to speak up and argue that transgendered workers should be included in ENDA. We all want to see transgendered workers included, and I guarantee that day will come and we'll get there, but this year it's vital that we get the most protection for the greatest number of employees that we can. People are being discriminated against today in the workplace and the law needs to make it clear that's a violation of civil rights and human rights, now. As we move forward with a new Democratic president and a bigger Democratic majority in January, we'll continue the fight to make sure that everyone, and I mean everyone, is protected."

O'Reilly said that while he strongly supports making ENDA transgender-inclusive, he said that if he were in the Senate this year and Sen. Kennedy's sexual orientation-only version of the bill came up for a vote on the floor, he would support it grudgingly.

"Would I vote for it? Yes, because it would be a step in the right direction. But I would do so kicking and screaming," said O'Reilly, adding that if he is elected he will work to make sure that future versions of ENDA include gender identity language.

"I am for protection for all people, for everyone, and that means transgender, also. ... We're either standing for it or not, and if it goes down in defeat, it goes down in defeat. Why start in a position of compromise?" said O'Reilly.

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