Time to pick up the phone again


p>Today isNational Call-In Day for Equality, as designated by a coalition of LGBT groups, a day to burn up the Capitol Hill phone lines in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2009.

This iteration of ENDA (H.R. 3017) was introduced by
Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). The act would
“prohibit employment discrimination, preferential treatment, and
retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by
employers with 15 or more employees. Currently, it is legal to
discriminate in the workplace based on sexual orientation in 29 states
and to discriminate based on gender identity in 38 states.”

This post wassupposed to be about the results of the markup and vote earlier today by the HouseEducation and Labor Committee on ENDA. Yesterday, the committee’s website noted the upcoming session.

On Wednesday, November 18, the House Education and Labor Committee will
vote on legislation to end the widespread practice of employment
discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

But that didn’t happen. Early yesterday evening, the news began to ripple across the internet that the committee had postponed the session. The website was updated with a one-sentence explanation, in red. “This markup has been postponed.”

Depending on what blog you read and who you believe, the committee may vote to send ENDA to the floor as early as “sometime after Thanksgiving” (best case scenario) or as late as February (worst case scenario). The widespread upset about this postponement isn’t simply a question of “sooner is better,” but concern that a late vote out of the House will delay the Senate vote till around the same time as the 2010 midterm campaigns kick off. For Senators up for reelection, a yes vote on ENDA would be an even dicier issue than it is now.

As for thewhy part of the delay, that’s also in debate. Committee staffers report that the delay is just so committee members can come to agreement about modifications and language. Which is sort of what they’re supposed to be doing during markup, no? The other, non-official, explanation for the slowdownsupposes a strategy of privileging the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (giving benefits to domestic partners of federal employees) over ENDA.

ENDA’s passage is not certain in any scenario but we’ve come closer in 2009 than ever before. It’s critical that we don’t lose ground, so please, pick up the phone.

If you don’t know your Senators and Representatives’ number, just call the U.S. Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121 and give them your zip code.