I have always been a strong supporter of guaranteeing full civil rights for all in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. My work on this issue will continue until these protections become law.
I strongly support H.R. 2015, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007. For many years, I have worked closely and tirelessly with people in the LGBT community and our allies to build support for this important legislation. I have personally spoken with well over one hundred Congressional colleagues, explaining the importance of this particular bill, listening to their concerns, and answering their questions. As a result of all of our work, and that of Congressional supporters, 171 Members of Congress have co-sponsored the legislation, authored by Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), which protects not only gays, lesbians and bisexuals, but also provides equally strong prohibitions against discrimination based on gender identity.
Last weekend, Speaker Pelosi, in remarks before the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, said: “I strongly believe that transgender individuals deserve the same rights and the same protections as any other Americans and will work to see that ENDA also protects their rights.” I share her sentiments.
Soon, I expect the House Committee on Education and Labor to consider this issue. It is my hope that the Committee will take up H.R. 2015 and pass it. I further hope for, and continue to work towards, passage of legislation by the full House, banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
All of the Democratic leaders involved in this discussion are committed to employment non-discrimination protections for transgender Americans. We share a common goal, but disagree over process and strategy. Yet these procedural and strategic decisions are important because they affect the ultimate question of how and when we can most quickly pass protections that include transgender people. This is how a democracy works.
I am under no illusions about the challenges of achieving our goal. But, the quest for advancement of civil rights in our nation has never been easy. It is precisely because of the discrimination these groups experience that this legislation is needed.
As is the case with all legislation, there is no guarantee of success. Everyone pressing for this legislation knows that. We know that opponents of workplace protections may offer any number of amendments designed to derail the bill, including, perhaps, an effort to remove protections based upon gender identity. I believe we must boldly face these challenges.
Perhaps some of these hostile efforts will be successful. That should not deter our work. We must bring the strongest possible bill to the floor of the House for a vote. If our adversaries wish to erode protections in the bill, we must be prepared to face that challenge and make our case.
However, I believe it is a mistake to concede defeat on any issue, before our opponents even raise it.
In recent weeks there have been many efforts which have had the effect of distracting allies from the work at hand.
The House leadership afforded supporters of the fully inclusive bill two weeks to demonstrate that sufficient support exists to withstand worst-case scenario assaults on the bill. My work whipping Members on passage of a fully inclusive bill continues. I hope that the effort will culminate in sufficient evidence that the votes exist to withstand attacks and pass a fully inclusive bill.
Toward that end, I encourage all advocates to focus their efforts on building Congressional support for H.R. 2015. There will be ample time to consider distracting issues later. For now, let us keep our eyes on the prize.