Now that the hate crimes bill has been enacted into law, the Next Big Thing is ENDA. That's the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the bill to stop job discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity.
I'll continue to post a legislator of the day here on Bilerico every weekday I've been told by the Powers That Be that our community lobbying efforts here are having an important effect. However, it's also important to stop and take a look at where we are overall on this bill. Thus, a new weekly feature: the Weekly ENDA Update.
I'd like to talk about three items: the upcoming Senate hearing, the upcoming House vote, and our overall strategy.
The Senate hearing will take place on Thursday, November 5, at 10am ET. We'll be liveblogging the hearing here at The Bilerico Project. More info about who and what you'll see during the liveblog, after the jump. Add your email address in the box above to get a reminder about the Liveblog so you don't miss it.
The Senate Hearing
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (the "HELP" Committee) will hold its hearing on ENDA this Thursday, November 5 at 10am ET. I am not yet sure where this hearing will be broadcast, am looking into it and will tell you when I find out. During the liveblog, we will provide you with instantaneous information about the Committee members as they speak, the witnesses as they testify, and references to specific issues in the bill as they are raised. You will see comments from some well-known members of our community in the hearing room via Twitter. Tweeters from the hearing room will include Kerry Eleveld, reporter for The Advocate, and Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, as well as several others.
As we saw in the House hearing held on September 23, we will probably see a statement by the Chair, Senator Tom Harkin, a statement by the ranking Republican member, Senator Michael Enzi, and statements by a series of witnesses who have experience regarding the need and import of the legislation. Senators can ask questions of the witnesses and make comments, and a final statement by the Chair will close the meeting.
There are 23 members of the Senate Committee that will be hearing this matter. 12 are confirmed yes votes, 10 are unconfirmed, and 1 is a confirmed no vote. Two of these unconfirmed votes are going to be very important to watch: Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina. You can see the spreadsheet with the info for each Senator on the Committee here: http://bit.ly/4maV59
There are 56 confirmed yes votes according to my calculations, so four more are needed to overcome the Republican filibuster. Senators Murkowski and Hagan could bring us up to 58. Neither of them have revealed much about how they will vote. Senator Murkowski has simply said nothing, though she was one of 5 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote against the Republican filibuster of the hate crimes bill. I suspect that she believes in workplace equality, but don't have much a basis for that belief, since she has said nothing on the issue. When Senator Hagan was in the North Carolina legislature, she co-sponsored an inclusive ENDA-type bill that included both sexual orientation and gender identity. However, she has told constituents who inquired that she would have supported the 2007 SPLENDA bill (split ENDA, containing sexual orientation only and not gender identity), and will have to consider carefully the impacts of this new bill.
Their behavior and words at the hearing will reveal much about how well ENDA is doing. I myself will be glued to them whenever possible.
The HELP Committee has not yet revealed the list of witnesses at the time of this writing. When they do, it will be available here.
The House vote
The next step in moving forward on this bill is "markup" in the House. That's basically a meeting in which the members of the Committee offer amendments and vote which ones, if any, to send to the House floor with the bill itself. You can learn more about markup on Wikipedia, which offers an article on the subject.
The House markup on ENDA is expected to take place next week. The vote is expected by Thanksgiving. Health reform issues could interfere and put all this off schedule. I'll let you know more as we move through November.
DC insiders have assured me that there are about 230 likely yes votes. But they told me the same thing in the same words in 2007, when the bill collapsed at the whip count. That's why I've turned my life upside down with this daily ENDA campaigning in 2009. And that's why you had better, if you want this bill intact, call the 35 Representatives in or near your state today. Click here for their contact info.
The real fight is going to be in the Senate, where Senators in the minority have much more power to kill a bill. The Senate rules, unlike the House, allow for a filibuster, which triggers a need for 60 votes to "invoke cloture," meaning to stop the filibuster. We don't currently have 60 votes, as far as we can tell.
The most fair-minded of the Senators will not be swayed by such delusional ravings. But those in conservative jurisdictions will need to be reassured that their constituents include a majority who favor the bill.
The Democrats who will need most reassurance are Senator Pryor of Arkansas, Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is generally favorable on LGBT issues, but has expressed indecision on ENDA.
There are other Democrats who have simply refused to say anything, including Senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Senators Carper and Kaufman of Delaware, Senator Bayh of Indiana, Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Senator Paul Kirk of Massachusetts.
There are a few Republicans who may support ENDA, though it's unclear as yet, such as Senator Murkowski of Alaska, Senator Lugar of Indiana, and Senator Voinovich of Ohio.