Gay workplace protection law stalls in Congress

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The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was due to come before lawmakers this week, but a slew of other business has delayed its passage, as arguments about trans protections continue.

Attempts by a lesbian lawmaker in the US Congress to include trans people in the workplace legislation may fail to gain support from Democrats.

Many of the Democrats elected for the first time last November do not want ENDA to include protections for trans people, fearful of a backlash from conservatives.

“People didn’t want to force a ‘hard’ vote that might hurt their election chances,” Hilary Rosen, a Democratic lobbyist and gay and lesbian advocate, wrote on the Huffington Post blog.

Representative Tammy Baldwin had announced that she has secured an agreement from the Democratic leadership to introduce an amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives after the bill moved through the House Education and Labour committee.

However, ENDA is not on the schedule for this week’s business in the House and the chair of the Education and Labour committee has said that the trans amendment will not come up for a vote as it did not have enough support to pass.

Ms Baldwin and the only other openly-gay member of Congress are divided over the removal of gender identity from ENDA.

Congressman Barney Frank insists trans protections will cause the bill to be rejected by the House of Representatives, but the “all or nothing” position is supported by nearly 300 organisations representing the LGBT community in America, who launched a lobbying and advocacy campaign to win passage of a fully inclusive legislation.

The largest and most prominent American gay rights group, Human Rights Campaign, has been heavily criticised for not adding its voice to the criticism of the proposal to drop trans protections.

Federal employment discrimination protections are currently provided on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.

A spokesman for President Bush has indicated that even if ENDA gains Senate approval he will veto it.