The History of ENDA Prior to the 113th Session of Congress Re-Introduction (Part One)

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Stephanie Donald—LGBT-Today Special Report

Bella_Abzug_1971-11-30Washington D.C.— Every Congress since 1994 (with the exception of the 109th Congress) has introduced a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and apparently this upcoming session of congress will not be any different.

Support for this bill is presently unknown but House conservatives understand that even within the LGBT community, most people aren’t aware what rights, or lack of rights the LGBT community has in each state until some catastrophe hits an individual in an unprotected state.

In 29 states of America you can be fired from your job for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. In 34 states you can be fired for being transgender. (See map below)

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Although the original ENDA bill, introduced by Congressman Gerry Studds and Senator Ted Kennedy died in respective committees in 1994, the original bill was designed by Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-NY) and future Barbara_Gittings_1973New York Mayor Ed Koch, with the assistance of the newly formed Gay Task Force (later to be renamed The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), with board members, gay pioneers Barbara Gittings and Dr. Franklin Kameny in 1974.

That original bill was also co-sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

The Equality Bill of 1974 was designed to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1974 and would have protected not only gays and lesbians (unfortunately not transgender people or “transsexuals”, as they were known then), but also single women in employment, equal pay for homosexuals and woman and health care for homosexuals and women.

Unfortunately, as they say, timing is everything, and all Americans (and Congress) could think about in 1974 were the Senate Watergate Hearings which everyone watched raptly on their television sets every day up until President Richard Nixon finally resigned.

The Equality Bill was buried in committees in both the House and Senate but was reintroduced every year until Bella Abzug was defeated for a run at the U.S. Senate seat in New York by Patrick Moynihan. She never held an elected position again.

When a form of the same bill was reintroduced, it reappeared under the sponsorship of the National Organization of Women as the Equal Rights Amendment with all the language protecting women intact but having all the protections for the gay and lesbian community striped from it.

Ironically, NOW had hoped that by dropping the homosexual rights, they would stand a better chance of passage but more than 30 years, the ERA has never come any closer to passage than the original Equal Rights Bill did.

In 2007, Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) introduced ENDA to Congress and although he received some degree of receptiveness in Congress toward homosexual rights, everyone stonewalled and balked the thought of giving protections to the transgender community.

One of the biggest backers of the ENDA bill was the Human Rights Campaign. Despite overwhelming homosexual support of the transgender community and several transgender members of the HRC board of directors, Barney Frank and HRC Director Joe Solmonese made a back-room deal to drop transgender rights from the ENDA bill.

Part Two Will Be Published on Sunday, April 28/2013

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