By Ron Flynn
Alice Board, Co-Chair
On November 4, the day before the election, the Senate passed a vote for cloture on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. That procedural vote requires 60 votes, and obtained 61. Passage of ENDA, after the floor debate that is coming, requires 51 votes. Every Democratic senator has gone on record as supporting ENDA. Its passage is assured.
What does this mean? Well a lot and a little.
This is the first time the United States Senate has voted to provide basic workplace protections to LGBT people. In 2007, the House passed a version of ENDA which did not include protections for Transpeople. That bill died in the Senate. So this is the first time a trans-inclusive bill has passed either house. This is a great moment worth celebrating.
But the law changes slowly. Almost every Congress since 1994 has had a version of ENDA which failed to pass both houses. This is only the second time that either chamber has passed a version of ENDA. This passage sends a message to many people. Democrats seeking office must support ENDA. Republicans are becoming co-sponsors. The public opinion has changed; no one really understands why a LGBT person could be fired simply for being LGBT.
No one, except the House Republicans and their allies on the right.
Speaker Boehner has said he does not support ENDA and is not bringing it to the floor. Under Republican’s crazy “majority of the majority” rule, which places all policy within the hands of a hard-right minority, there is little to no chance the Speaker will introduce it. That tells us we need to work tirelessly to ensure that Speaker Pelosi has the opportunity to introduce and pass ENDA next time the Senate passes this bill. She could get it done, and would get it done.
We also need to remain aware of the messages that are being used around this issue. Family Research Counsel (FRC), which was a huge proponent of Proposition 8, is decrying that law would take away the right to fire LGBT people where “it is appropriate.” In what circumstances would that be? Well, according to FRC, daycares and schools of course. This plays into the same coded-messages that go back to Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign. It simply, without coming out and saying it, relies on the message that LGBT people are pedophiles. The right’s allies spread these lies, and then the Republican’s take cover in them. We must push back every time.
So the passage of cloture on ENDA will not change the law, and will not stop those aligned against us from continuing to disparage us. But it is another moment along the path to full equality. Something to celebrate. Something to work on.