04/16/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
While House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer seems rather confident that it is possible to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the floor soon, Representative Barney Frank has not been quite as optimistic. That is not to say that Frank does not believe that the bill will not be ready to come to a vote soon.
According to Frank, “We have an agreed-upon bill. We’re going to get the bill voted on this spring— what people really ought to focus on is helping ust get the vote. I think that we’re pretty close, but it’s not a done deal.”
Currently, the bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity has 199 cosponsors. This puts it at seventeen shy of actually passing in the House.
Frank, along with Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis of Wisconsin and Colorado respectively are lobbying member to member. Once they get those seventeen votes, they will bring the bill to a committee vote, and then on to a floor vote.
While both Hoyer and Frank are fairly certain of getting ENDA through the House, Frank’s statements are far more realistic regarding the issue.
Prospects in the Senate are harder to gauge where at least six Democrats appear to be reluctant to sign on, and the bill will likely need sixty votes to pass instead of fifty. Currently, the bill is fifteen short in the Senate, or has forty-five cosponsors.
Democrats Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Robert Byrd of West Virginia are, so far, unwilling to join in. A number of Republicans, specifically Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Richard Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio, Robert Bennett of Utah, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, may vote for the law.
The largest problem so far is that of the protections for transpeople. According to one Christian Group called the True Values Coalition, “children will be trapped in classes taught by men undergoing a so-called sex change to become women and will be taught that it’s normal behavior.” Of course, given that science is moving towards redefining transsexuality and transgenderism as being biological in origin, these groups are wrong that it is abnormal behavior.
At least one politician is worried about how to frame the inclusion of protections for transpeople to their constituents. According to one source quoted in the Advocate “We haven’t figured out how to message the trans issue yet,’ was his response,” said the source. “But he also said, ‘Ya know, the other reason is, no one is calling us yet.’”