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Thursday, November 8, 2007

ENDA Passes Without Gender Identity

Yesterday, ENDA passed the House without "gender identity." As you may recall, although this term's original version of ENDA, HR 2015, included both sexual orientation and gender identity, two separate bills were later introduced, one including only sexual orientation (HR 3685) and one including only gender identity (HR 3686). HR 3685 was sent out from committee, and it was debated and passed yesterday.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin had requested, and promised, an amendment to add gender identity back into the bill. At yesterday's debate, however, she decided to introduce and then withdraw her amendment before a vote could be taken on it. There was no discussion addressing the importance and meaning of gender identity to gay people, or what it means to be transgender. This was disappointing to transgender people and their allies, including many GLBT organizations.

Representative Baldwin said "But while I believe that a roll call vote on this amendment would demonstrate strong support for an inclusive ENDA, I believe that it will fall short of adoption. People have asked why I pressed for and insisted upon bringing an amendment to the floor and maintaining the option to withdraw it without a vote. The reason is simple. I believe that those who will be left behind by this bill deserve to hear on this House floor that you are not forgotten, and our job will not be finished until you, too, share fully in the American dream. So at the moment at which the closing arguments are made, I will withdraw this amendment. With a commitment to my colleagues and all Americans committed to equality of opportunity, and ending discrimination, that I will do everything within my power to make this measure whole again."

It is expected that the Senate will not take up the measure this year, and President Bush vowed to veto any such measure on the grounds that employment discrimination against gay people is a right of religious freedom. It will probably not be introduced again next term, as the election year is not a time for controversial measures, but it is expected to be re-introduced for the 2009 session.

While these events are deeply distressing to transgender people and their allies, the effort has raised consciousness among members of Congress, and created a robust discussion in the GLBT community about the meaning of "community". This, at least, is a step forward.

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