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Frank: Lobby Congress on ENDA

Frank: Lobby Congress on ENDA

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Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts said Thursday that the language of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act had been finalized, serious vote counting had begun, and LGBT activists should contact their representatives and senators.

"We have an agreed-upon bill," Frank said. "We're going to get the bill voted on this spring -- what people really ought to focus on is helping us get the vote. I think we're pretty close, but it's not a done deal."

ENDA, which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, currently has 199 cosponsors in the House and will require 216 votes for passage on the floor.

Frank's remarks follow comments from House majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland earlier this week indicating that the House was likely to take a vote on the bill.

Frank, along with representatives Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jared Polis of Colorado, has started member-to-member lobbying efforts. He said once they are certain they have the votes, the committee vote would take place first, and then the floor vote would be called shortly thereafter.

A person with ties to Senate offices gave similar advice on the Senate side, where the bill currently has 45 cosponsors but will require 60 votes for passage whether it's a stand-alone bill or an amendment to another measure.

"We're down about six Democrats," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The source named a number of Democratic senators who need to hear from their constituents, including: Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

The source also said there was a long-shot possibility that some Republicans might back the bill, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Richard Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio, Robert Bennett of Utah, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

"When this ramps up, you know that the right wing will start flooding the Hill with letters and phone calls," said the source, adding that tweeting and posting messages to Facebook is just not good enough.

In fact, social conservatives have already started their blitz, evidenced by a CBS report Thursday about a Traditional Values Coalition press release claiming that passing ENDA would mean "children will be trapped in classes taught by men undergoing a so-called sex change to become women and will be taught that it's normal behavior."

The source talked with one senate staffer about why his senator had not signed on to the bill. "We haven't figured out how to message the trans issue yet,' was his response," said the source. "But he also said, 'Ya know, the other reason is, no one is calling us yet.'"
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