House majority leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that the body will likely take up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this year. According to Congressional Quarterly, Hoyer said the legislation, which would institute a federal ban on job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, is less controversial now than it has been in the past. The bill, H.R. 3017, currently has 198 cosponsors.
From CQ: "Hoyer said most lawmakers already are on the record on the issue because the House passed similar legislation in 2007 to bar employment discrimination based on sexual preference. 'So it's not like this is a new issue for the members,' said Hoyer, D-Md."
The comments are significant as Congress returns to work this week and political observers look for signals from Democratic leadership regarding what type of legislation the Democratic caucus is willing to engage.
In the interview Hoyer also entertained the idea of taking a vote on repealing "don't ask, don't tell."
But, according to CQ, "he said legislative action would await recommendation from the Pentagon, noting that both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said that they support ending the policy. 'Both of these issues are not new issues, and I frankly think that they're going to be resolved, and I think the American public is there as well,' Hoyer said."
To date, the House has not gotten such a directive from the Pentagon, nor has the White House weighed in on taking legislative action this year.
The article added that House leaders do not plan "to tie changes to 'don't ask, don't tell'" to the Department of Defense authorization bill. Hoyer also said he had no time line yet for consideration of repeal legislation.
The stand-alone repeal bill, H.R. 1283, has 191 cosponsors, and its chief sponsor, Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, has said he has enough personal commitments from lawmakers to pass the bill. But Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts has consistently said that a repeal measure would be folded into the Defense authorization bill.