House leaders delay vote on job discrimination measure, reportedly to gauge support for transgender amendment
The White House gave its first official indication Tuesday, Oct. 23, that President Bush is likely to veto the Employment Non-Discrimination Act should it pass Congress.
Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders opted to delay a floor vote on ENDA initially expected Wednesday, Oct. 24 as the controversy surrounding their recent removal of gender identity from the bill continued. In its current form ENDA prohibits workplace discrimination based only on sexual orientation.
According to ENDA supporters, the decision to delay the vote was not a response to the White House’s one-page statement of administration policy concerning ENDA. The statement appeared to confirm speculation that Bush will veto ENDA, or H.R. 3685, regardless of whether it includes transgender protections.
“The bill raises concerns on constitutional and policy grounds, and if H.R. 3685 is presented to the president, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” the statement read.
U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., quickly issued a response, calling the White House statement “shameful.” Miller is chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, which sent ENDA to the full House on Thursday, Oct. 18.
“Fully qualified, capable Americans should never be denied a job or fired from a job for non-work related reasons,” Miller said. “Basing employment decisions on prejudice and not on merit is un-American and should have no place in our society. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a historic civil rights bill and if the president opposes it he will be on the wrong side of history.”
Despite Miller’s statement, there remained dissension both among Democrats and within the gay community concerning the trans issue. After House Democratic leaders opted to remove gender identity from ENDA, saying the bill otherwise wouldn’t have enough votes on the floor, more than 300 LGBT groups objected.
Four pro-gay Democrats voted against ENDA in committee because it lacked trans protections, and lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., announced she would introduce an amendment on the floor that would restore them.
Drew Hammill, press secretary for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a statement Tuesday, Oct. 22, saying the floor vote on ENDA would be delayed so that leaders could determine how many members plan to support the amendment.
“We do not anticipate that this process can be completed this week,” Hammill said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007