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Thursday, February 10, 2011

ENDA: The Longest Journey

By David Mixner -

The Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) has had a long and frustrating journey. The original legislation was introduced by Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-New York) and then Congressman Ed Koch (D- New York) on May 14, 1974. Called the "Gay Rights Bill" it would have added sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Senator Paul Tsongas and Senator Edward Kennedy became big champions of the legislation in the United States Senate.
In the early 1990's the decision was made to remove it from the Civil Rights bill and just make it about employment discrimination. Year after year for 37 years, in one form or another this community has pushed ENDA. In 1996 there was a glimmer of hope when the LGBT community lost a vote in the Senate by a tally of 50 to 49! There was not a vote in the House that year. We have not had a serious vote on the issue in the Senate since 1996.
The act itself is not without controversy. Many feel it was a mistake to take it out of the 1964 Civil Rights bill and exclusively focus on employment. Then in the last few years there was a heated debate in political circles and even in the LGBT community whether Transgender people should be included in the legislation. With quick outrage the community responded in fierce solidarity and today Transgender people are covered by ENDA.
For those who continue to demand that the emphasis of the community should be on ENDA and not marriage, their hopes are not very high this year. There is almost nil chance the Republican House will pass any version of this legislation. After all, these new Republicans arriving in Washington this year are the ones who want to cut off funding for the implementation of the repeal of DADT and are pushing for a National Constitutional Amendment to ban marriage equality.
So the chances are high that ENDA will celebrate its 40th birthday without passage. Maybe it is time to look at a new bill that includes a large number of rights. After all, if we are going to push for this long let's get as much covered as possible in the legislation.

for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.


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