The news out of DC is that, according to Rep. Frank, ENDA will go for a markup the first week that Congress is back after the Easter break, and thence to a House vote shortly thereafter.
That's great news, but there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. That means that Frank proposes, but Pelosi disposes. After all, we've had promises practically every month since June that there would be a vote on ENDA. Until we hear it from the Speaker herself and see it on the calendar, one might be excused for a bit of skepticism.
So what should we do? In situations like this, I ask myself, WWCJD?
What would Cleve Jones do?
Fortunately, that question has been answered for us. Cleve Jones has written an open letter to Nancy Pelosi about ENDA. He has teamed up with GetEqual and the Courage Campaign to start a petition drive to get signatures to deliver to Speaker Pelosi to let her know that the people want ENDA. It will be delivered some time in early April, with due ceremony and media attention, I am sure.
Here's the petition website: http://www.getequal.org/SpeakerPelosi_blog
Cleve Jones's letter after the jump, and some thoughts about petition drives.
Dear Speaker Pelosi --
I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for your relentless perseverance in the passage of health care reform. Along with President Obama, your steadfast leadership and personal commitment has fundamentally changed the lives of millions of Americans.
You and I have known each other for a long time, since we first met as political organizers in San Francisco. I was proud when you were elected Speaker and proud again on Sunday night when you gave a powerful speech on the floor of the House of Representatives about the meaning of health care reform, eloquently asserting that:
"When it comes to health care for all Americans, 'All politics is personal.' It's personal for the family that wrote to me who had to choose between buying groceries and seeing a doctor. It's personal to the family who was refused coverage because their child had a pre-existing condition..."
This profound statement about the power of politics to change the lives of everyday people touched me deeply. And it reminded me of the opportunity we have right now to transform the lives of Americans again -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
As shocking as it may be to believe in the year 2010, LGBT people can still legally be fired from their jobs in at least 29 states of our country simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That's why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is so vitally important.
Once passed, ENDA would provide to all Americans basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. As my friends at Pride at Work describe it, ENDA is "based on the labor principle that every worker should be judged solely on his or her merits as a worker" and is similar in nature to other federal civil rights laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We've seen the passion you've brought to the challenge of passing health care reform. Now more than ever, we need your passion and skill to achieve the passage of ENDA.
As you know, many Americans in the LGBT community -- especially young people -- are increasingly frustrated and cynical about the pace of progress in Washington.
We want you to show them that cynicism is not the response at this time. They need to believe in the process, Madame Speaker, and you can restore their faith in this process by moving expeditiously to bring ENDA to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.
I know your values, Madame Speaker, and I know that you strongly support ENDA. Now I want these young people to know what is in your heart.
With the knowledge that health care reform has been achieved and that enough votes now exist in the House today to pass ENDA, will you work with Rep. George Miller, Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, to ensure that ENDA is passed out of committee and brought to the floor of the house immediately?
I am writing this open letter to you and sharing it with my friends in the Courage Campaign and GetEQUAL communities, thousands of whom will sign a petition to you asking that ENDA be prioritized for passage now. You can read the petition -- and Americans can sign on to it -- here: http://www.getequal.org/SpeakerPelosi_blog
Congratulations again on your historic achievement. Along with thousands of other people reading this letter, I wish you the best.
Senior Advisor, Courage Campaign
When I practiced law, there was an old saying about how to persuade a jury.
"If you want the jury to say it to you, then you must say it to them."
In other words, if you're the prosecutor, you have to say the words "this defendant is guilty." Or "not guilty" if you're the defense attorney. As often as possible. Of course, it's not as simple as that, but if you present dozens of witnesses and mounds of evidence, but you never tell the jury what it is you want them to find, it makes it harder for them to sort through the flak the other side inevitably throws up.
The principle is the same here. If you want Congressmembers to vote yes on ENDA, then you must tell them that you want them to vote yes on ENDA. And we've been telling them, through visits and phone calls and letters. But now is crunch time. There's been a lot going on in DC lately, as you know.
You must make them sit up and take notice of ENDA. You must make it clear that you want it, and how bad.
However, I have seen petition drives stumble badly. It takes dedication and asking people over and over and over again to sign. It takes making the case over and over and over again. I'm prepared to do it.
And I'm asking you to take it on, as well. I am asking you to, right now, sign this petition, post this to your facebook pages, to your twitter accounts, send emails to your friends and relatives and follow up with a phone call to them: "Did you get my email to sign the petition?"
Here it is again: http://www.getequal.org/SpeakerPelosi_blog