Honda Still Sees Chance for ENDA
Despite the House leadership’s refusal to bring it up for a vote, a federal bill banning LGBT workplace discrimination isn’t dead yet in the eyes of a South Bay congressman.
In an editorial board meeting last week with the Bay Area Reporter, Congressman Mike Honda (D-Campbell) said he remains hopeful about seeing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act pass out of the House prior to the mid-term elections of 2014.
"I don’t think it is a lost cause," said Honda. "I have some hopes it could pass but it is not going to pass without some work."
Early last month the Senate passed the long stalled pro-LGBT legislation on a vote of 64-32, which Honda described as an "eyebrow raising surprise." The first time the Senate voted in 1996, it failed to pass ENDA on a vote of 49-50.
The legislation, which President Barack Obama has repeatedly pledged to sign into law, prohibits most employers with more than 15 employees from taking adverse employment actions against staffers or job applicants based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." It does include exemptions for some employers based on the degree to which they are involved in religious activities.
The bill is not as comprehensive as the original legislation introduced by the late Representative Bella Abzug in 1974. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s website, the legislation now known as ENDA was first introduced in 1994 and has been revised and reintroduced over the ensuing decades.
The House adopted ENDA in 2007, but like the Senate version passed more than a decade earlier, it did not include gender identity and prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation only.
After the Democratic-controlled House, led by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), faced heated criticisms from transgender leaders and their allies for omitting gender-based protections, congressional leaders have sought to pass a fully inclusive version of ENDA.
According to new research released in mid-November from UCLA’s Williams Institute, a majority of Americans in every U.S. congressional district support laws that protect against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation such as ENDA. (The LGBT think tank reported there is no relevant public opinion data on ENDA’s gender identity provisions.)
Institute officials stated that their research confirms that ENDA would pass if all House members followed their constituents.
Yet seeing the House take up the bill appears unlikely. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeatedly said he would not bring ENDA to the floor for a vote, saying he does not believe the legislation is necessary and that it would lead to frivolous lawsuits.
LGBT leaders have criticized Boehner for his stated reasoning for his opposition to ENDA. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin stated he finds it "shocking that Speaker Boehner, entrusted by the people to make laws, is so fundamentally mistaken about what’s currently on the books. The speaker is flat out wrong on the facts and the law."