Via LGBT (mostly "L") community blog Autostraddle:
When last we checked in with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), things were a little rocky. The Senate had just passed a version that extended employment protection to transgender people, but many LGBT rights groups felt that the language was too broad in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling. In the House, Rep. Jared Polis hoped to force a vote on a version with fewer religious exemptions. However, ENDA’s long journey through Congress came to an end last Wednesday, when it was left off the 2015 defense spending bill in a 7-3 vote in the House Rules Committee.
With gay marriage legal in over half of the United States, it might be easy to forget that in 29 states, there are still no employment protections for LGBT people. In Wisconsin, New York, and New Hampshire, there are employment protections in place based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. In a report by the Center for American Progress (CAP), “1 in 10 LGB workers report having been fired from a job because they were lesbian, gay, or bisexual. As many as 47% of transgender people reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of their gender identity.” Additionally, the report found that LGBT people of color were fired at a higher rate than their white counterparts.
As we discussed earlier this month, Republican supporters of the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner urging the House to take up the measure as part of the national defense funding bill then up for debate. That letter notably did not include the signature of Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, whose alleged change of heart on ENDA was a major component of Coffman's dramatic reinvention since redistricting in 2011–from staunch conservative into a moderate supporter of a variety of progressive causes he previously opposed.
With ENDA now dead in the lame-duck session, chances of passage obviously dim as the new, redder 114th Congress takes office next month:
Now that ENDA’s dead, there’s been a push to start the legislation process again with a better bill and a better strategy. This past Wednesday, the Center for American Progress (CAP) held an event that featured keynote speaker Sen. Jeff Merkley, who was the main champion of ENDA in the Senate. In his address, Merkley pledged to introduce a new, more comprehensive bill, which he called the “Equality Act of 2015…”
Will this bill pass? Rep. Mark Takano, a panelist at the event, acknowledged that it probably won’t get through Congress any time soon, at least not while it’s still controlled by Republicans.
We're not so naive as to think ENDA had a tremendously better chance of passing in the lame-duck session than it will in the next two years of even more lopsided Republican control of Congress, but this was clearly the time to try. That's why most of the bill's Republican co-sponsors at least made an effort to get it into consideration before the 113th Congress adjourned. Remember, ENDA isn't radical policy: an admittedly compromise version of ENDA passed the U.S. Senate with solid bipartisan support. Here in Colorado, ENDA has been the status quo since 2007 when Gov. Bill Ritter signed it into law. To most Coloradans, nothing in ENDA sounds controversial, because it's been the law for almost eight years.
Will Coffman have another chance to make good on his election-year pledge? Probably. But he had one here–arguably the best he'll have before the next election–and he did not take it. For those skeptical that Coffman's reinvention is authentic and not political calculation, it's not very encouraging.