Pelosi Talks ENDA, DADT With Advocates

By Kerry Eleveld

Originally published on Advocate.com May 18 2010 10:15 AM ET

As LGBT activists prepared to voice their support Tuesday for taking immediate legislative action on employment discrimination protections, House speaker Nancy Pelosi convened a conference call Monday afternoon with advocacy organizations to discuss pending LGBT legislation.

The speaker relayed different avenues to passing both “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this year and solicited feedback from advocates, according to two participants of the call.

“I have no intention of losing on either of these,” Pelosi said, according to one person on the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A second participant said the speaker discussed the timing of taking a vote on ENDA relative to a DADT repeal vote, which is automatically built into the calendar for next week based on the fact that the House is scheduled to consider the National Defense Authorization Act that week. A DADT repeal measure is likely to be proposed on the House floor as an amendment to the defense bill.

The second source said the speaker went through the chronology of the calendar and the fact that taking a vote on ENDA and DADT in the same week is literally impossible from a scheduling standpoint. Pelosi also said she thought ENDA would have a much better likelihood of passing if DADT repeal were successfully ushered through first.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force planned to hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday urging a vote on ENDA. In addition, GetEqual, a new LGBT direct action organization, planned a demonstration outside Pelosi’s San Francisco district office Tuesday afternoon.

The organization circulated a flier reading, “If we don't get ENDA through the House now, it will DIE. Not just for this year — but probably for many years. We have the votes to pass ENDA in the House. Speaker Pelosi — Don't delay, schedule this vote now!”

While Capitol Hill insiders and lawmakers like Rep. Tammy Baldwin generally agree that the votes to pass ENDA do exist, they continue to worry about the possibility that Republicans will attempt to add an amendment known as a “motion to recommit" in order to kill the bill or irrevocably alter it.Representatives Barney Frank, Jared Polis, Baldwin, and House majority whip Jim
Clyburn have been conducting vote counts on both the broader legislation
and the motion to recommit. But some Hill observers think the motion to
recommit could go beyond a simple effort to strip out gender identity
protections to being something more hostile, more depraved in the way it
targets certain segments of the transgender population. At the same
time, advocates decline to guess at the language publicly for fear that
it might actually be adopted by the Right and used against them.

But
there is no way to know if a motion to recommit will be offered or what
the nature of such a motion would be until the legislation comes to a
vote.

On the call the speaker suggested that the motion to
recommit could be harsher than activists originally anticipated and, while she believed ENDA could pass if it were put to vote
right now, she was concerned that progressive Democrats could not
overcome a narrowly targeted motion to recommit.

However, the
second source added that Pelosi said she did not intend to leave this
Congress without putting ENDA to a vote in the House. “It’s not one or
the other,” the source recalled Pelosi saying in reference to ENDA and
DADT.

If ENDA is not called to a vote this week and the House
considers DADT next week, any vote on employment protections legislation
would be pushed back at least into the second week of June, after
lawmakers return from a weeklong recess during the first week. ENDA has
yet to be voted on in committee, but LGBT advocates anticipate that the
House vote will commence shortly after committee passage.

The
call included several Pelosi aides and representatives from a mix of D.C.-
and California-based organizations: the Human Rights Campaign, the
National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Center for
Lesbian Rights, Equality California, the Transgender Law Center, and the
Equality Federation.