Last week, Rep. Barney Frank stated in a Washington Blade interview that he is going to re-introduce ENDA this month in the House and the vote will take place in the fall. I experienced a vivid flashback to November 2007: the year browning-out, the wind quietly swirling dead leaves everywhere, and SPLENDA, the split Employment Non-Discrimination Act bill -- with sexual orientation protection but not gender identity -- passing the House of Representatives, to my bitter anguish.
Frank said he expects congressional hearings on ENDA before the measure sees a vote because lawmakers must still be educated on the bill's gender identity provisions.
"Efforts to include transgender people have failed in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland," he said. "It doesn't get easier when you throw in South Carolina and Utah."
Frank said transgender activists and allies have been lobbying lawmakers to support the gender identity provisions, and he's "more optimistic" that ENDA would pass with such a provision. But Frank stopped short of saying he was certain the bill would pass with the gender identity provisions.
"There's no certainty in politics," he said. "People got to lobby hard. And not lobbying Nancy Pelosi, or me, or [Reps.] Tammy [Baldwin] or George Miller -- they should be calling their own representatives. I'm optimistic, but it's not a done deal."
Whatever you or I may think of Barney Frank, it's pretty obvious that the first issue here is the fact that there are 140 undecided votes in the House, and it's going to be November 2009 before you know it. Clearly, we've got to get to those 140 in the House with education and time to digest it. Now. Not in the fall. Last-minute contact is not going to create the type of education and time necessary for these undecided legislators.
Question: How are we going to get people in their districts to talk to these 140? Answer: Join our Inclusive ENDA Campaign on Facebook.
Inclusive ENDA is a campaign on Facebook that is matching up people in or near local Congressional Districts to undecided legislators. The co-chairs are Bil Browning and Waymon Hudson of Bilerico and Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend,
This past week, thousands of people joined the call. There are almost 2,000 of us now. A hundred more are joining every day. Won't you join us?
When you join, you will receive a welcome letter and a link to a spreadsheet on the undecided House legislators so you can find out who to contact. (If you want to see it now, here's the link.) People in or near the undecided legislators will receive an email with information about who to call. The information generated by these contacts go on the group's Facebook Wall. You will get to see progress being made.
The Political Landscape of Inclusive ENDA in the U.S. House of Representatives
There are 435 Representatives in the House. (While we also have to think of the Senate, the immediate hurdle is the House, and we're doing first things first.) About 170 of the current House membership were co-sponsors of inclusive ENDA in the House in 2007. They will hopefully remember why they co-sponsored the bill in 2007, though we will remind them when the vote comes. When SPLENDA was finally voted on -- without gender identity protection -- about 130 of the current House members voted against ENDA. Subtracting these 300 from the House membership of 435, this leaves about 130 legislators whose positions are undecided or unknown. These are the people we need to educate. Now.
Inclusive ENDA's Campaign Method
A legislator is beholden to the people who put them in office -- and that only includes people in their own legislative district. Other people are interesting, but have no vote for that elected official. In addition, clogging phone lines with calls and faxes and sending mass emails is interesting, but does not create the kind of education that is required here. Legislators need to learn about ENDA and what it means. Thus, our method is to match up members with legislators in their districts to stimulate personal communication with legislators. Here's how the campaign is described:
This is a campaign to educate Members of Congress about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and why it is important to include protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity from job discrimination. This group will focus particularly on those Members who need more information on why an inclusive ENDA is important.
The vision of the group is to spread the message of inclusion to all of Congress, particularly those most in need of hearing this message, and to educate them about why gender identity protection is important for all people -- straight or gay or transgender.
***Here is what we are asking you to do***
Please look at the spreadsheet in the Links section below to see whether your House Representative is in the undecided/unknown column. (You do not need a google account to view the spreadsheets.) Contact your US Representative by calling the U.S. Capitol at 202-224-3121. Give the operator your zip code and ask for your Representative. Ask your Rep's office whether he or she has a position on an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and explain that means both sexual orientation and gender identity. Then, post the results of your call on the Wall below (even if it's just leaving a message).
Since the bill is going to be introduced in the House first, and voted on there in the fall, we will work on the Senators later. First things first.
Our next steps after this will be to contact those in the undecided columns and help to educate them about the importance of an inclusive ENDA.
Once we figure out who's undecided, we can commence personal education efforts. Education doesn't mean a flyer or a website. It means a person telling their human story and making a human connection. The few times I've spoken to an actual legislator on a personal level, and got to tell my personal story, it clearly made a distinct impression.
We've got some interesting ideas about how to make that connection with legislators, which can be a real challenge. Members of Congress are well-protected by phalanxes of receptionists and aides. But with thousands of people interested in this one issue, we have some leverage to break through the ranks and make a difference.
Won't you join us?