House Debates ENDA

The House has begun debate on the rule for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), H.R. 3685, to be followed by debate on the bill itself. In 30 states, it is currently legal to fire someone simply because of his or her sexual orientation. This bill will prohibit employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using an individual's sexual orientation as the basis for employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotion or compensation. The bill extends federal employment protections to gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers similar to those already provided to a person based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.

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Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-11) opens debate on the rule:

Rep. Castor: “During the 230-year-plus history of our great nation, the march towards equality under the law for all of our citizens has sometimes been slow. But it has been steady… This legislation that outlaws job discrimination based upon sexual orientation that the Congress will pass today was filed and introduced over 30 years ago. It is long past time to ensure that no one in our country can be discriminated against and fired from their job based upon who they are, whether it’s their race, their color, whether they are man or woman, or whether they are gay.”

Rep. Barney Frank (MA-04) explains the rule governing debate:

Rep. Frank: “When people who are opposed to the basic bill and opposed to the amendment, lament the chance not to vote on an amendment which would undermine the bill, people should understand where we are. I filed the bill that included people who are transgendered. Earlier this year, I was very proud when this House passed a Hate Crimes bill that included transgender… The question we have is this: if we do not have the votes to go forward with as much as we would like to do, do we then abandon any effort, and do we allow those who are opposed to any progress at all in the anti-discrimination fight in this area to use a particular group as a way to prevent progress?”

Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY-09) speaks in favor the rule and the bill:

Rep. Weiner: “I’m waiting for some true intellectually consistent members of the other party, who understand that in their mantra of government staying out of people’s private lives, in their mantra of allowing the marketplace to work, allowing people to be judged by their hard work, by their tenacity, by their skill — I’m waiting for those people to come to the floor and say that we believe in ENDA. We believe in the idea of not government selecting who is going to win, but letting the marketplace do it. We believe in our friends in the private sector, 350 or so Fortune 500 companies that already practice ENDA that we are going to be voting on today. Where are they? Where are those members of my colleagues’ party that are shamed by their record on Civil Rights throughout the years, and want to make it right now?”

Rep. Barney Frank (MA-04) speaks again during debate on the bill itself:

Rep. Frank: “Madam Speaker, I was accused in the last campaign by a former member of this body of pursuing a radical homosexual agenda. Well here it is in the House today: Working. Getting a job.”

Extended transcript:

Rep. Frank: “Beforehand, we get the most absurd exaggerations of the chaotic impact it will have… if this were a problem, we would have examples of it. 19 states have laws like this on the books and how many examples have you had of the poor befuddled employer who is so unable to perceive, that he is put on the docket? None. This is a made up issue, made up by people who don’t want to confront the real issue. And here is the real issue. There are millions of our fellow citizens, Madam Speaker, gay or lesbian, who live in fear they could be fired because they live in states where there is no such protection. And we have had real examples of that. And what we say today is, no, you can’t be fired because of that… By the way, this notion of perceived, it is so unusual that it’s in the American with Disabilities Act and… So let’s not behind hide behind this semantic. That is not the genuine motivation for opposition to this bill on the part of anyone in this House. What they are saying is, we don’t want to protect working men and women from this. Madam Speaker, I was accused in the last campaign by a former member of this body of pursuing a radical homosexual agenda. Well here it is in the House today: Working. Getting a job.”

Rep. John Lewis (GA-05) speaks again during debate on the bill itself:

Rep. Lewis: “Madam Speaker, I for one fought too long and too hard to end discrimination based on race and color, not to stand up against discrimination against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. During the 1960′s, we broke down those signs that said ‘white’ and ‘colored.’ Call it what you may, to discriminate against someone because they are gay is wrong, it is wrong, it is not right. There’s not any room in our society for discrimination. Today we must take this important step after more than 30 long years and pass the employment Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It is the right thing to do. It is the moral thing to do. Let us do it. Not just for this generation but for generations yet unborn. Today we have an opportunity to bring down more signs. Now is the time to do what is right, what is fair, what is just. The time is always right to do right. Let us pass this bill.”
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