ENDA Vote Coming Soon

by Chris Geidner

Metro Weekly

Thursday April 29, 2010

Legislation aimed at ending employment discrimination against LGBT people will be marked up in committee ''this week or next,'' according to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

Frank, speaking to Metro Weekly after his appearance at the Victory Fund's annual Champagne Brunch, said the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - currently in the House Education and Labor Committee - has been ''promised'' a quick vote in the full House by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) once the bill leaves committee.

Noting that he's been speaking to Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) ''constantly,'' Frank said of the ENDA mark-up, ''It will be this week or next week.''

As both he and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) have said previously, Frank reiterated that he expected a floor vote to follow the expected committee passage in short order. ''The speaker has promised that,'' Frank said. ''We will get this done fairly quickly.''

Frank was one of the featured speakers at the Victory Fund event at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel on Sunday, April 18. Jim Kolbe, the former Republican congressman from Arizona, introduced Frank, saying of LGBT equality, ''There is no one - there is no one - who has been a more effective advocate than Barney Frank.''

Of the opposition he's faced from anti-LGBT forces in Congress, Frank told the crowd, ''Here's my radical homosexual agenda: Let us get married, join the military and hold down a job.''

As the applause subsided, he added, ''Very few radicals in history would have thought much of that.''

In the past month, Frank has been speaking with increased confidence and specificity about House passage of ENDA. The legislation, which has been introduced in different forms in Congress since 1994, would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for employers with 15 or more employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D) was also a featured speaker at the brunch. Introduced by lesbian Houston City Councilmember Sue Lovell (D), Parker spoke about her historic campaign to become the first lesbian mayor of a city with more than one million residents.

D.C. City Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large), introduced by City Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D), spoke about his work on health care and marriage equality in the District.

Frank spoke to the group about the importance of LGBT officials.

''Legislating is a very personal business,'' he said. ''Prejudice is literally ignorance. It is people prejudging based on a stereotype that substitutes for reality. Reality undermines that. So, the more they see us, the better it is.''

He also spoke of the protesters who yelled anti-gay epithets at him and his partner, Jim Ready, during the health care debate, noting that his partner had to be held back ''from responding in a way to a protestor that would not have made him happy.''

Frank added, ''I was pleased, both that he had the impulse - and that he was restrained.''

Looking toward the mid-term elections, Frank said of pro-LGBT interests, ''We're going to have a tough November - not because of our issues, and that's very important to note,'' but because of the political environment more broadly.

Speaking of actions taken by the Democratic majority to ''contain...the economic problems we inherited from the Bush administration,'' Frank noted the political limitations of that action, saying, ''In the history of politics, no one has ever won with the slogan, 'Things would have sucked worse without me.'''

Of LGBT equality, however, Frank said, ''We're gonna win this battle, there's no question. ... I know people are frustrated, 'Well, we're always fighting.' Of course we're always fighting, because we have taken on a major task: eradicating one of the great prejudices of human history.

''So, of course, we're going to keep fighting until it's all over.''

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