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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Strib Covers ENDA Controversy in Minnesota Delegation


The political sensitivity of the issues surfaced last week, when leaders in the House delayed a vote on the Employee Non-Discrimination Act.

The move came after Minnesota's Rep. Tim Walz, a leader among freshman Democrats, informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the new members did not want to vote on the bill if it included protections for transgender people, according to a report in the Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

A Walz spokesman confirmed the report, but added: "As president of the freshman class, Congressman Walz is often asked to bring the concerns of any of the 45 newly elected Democrats to the leadership, regardless of whether he personally shares those concerns."

He added that Walz was a co-sponsor of an earlier version of the bill that included the transgender protections.

The bill, without the transgender language, is expected to come to the House floor for a vote this week. An amendment may be offered to restore the transgender protections.

Here's what the Hill article said:

Reps. Tim Walz (Minn.) and Ron Klein (Fla.), leaders of the class of freshman Democrats, carried a message to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday that their fellow first-term lawmakers did not want to vote on an amendment extending civil rights to transgender employees.

House Education and Labor panel Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), whose committee passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, said he told the freshman lawmakers at their Wednesday breakfast with Pelosi that the amendment did not have the votes to pass and would not be brought to the House floor.

In addition, Miller told the freshmen he recognized that the amendment exposed the first-term lawmakers to political attacks from conservatives and liberals alike, said two sources who attended the breakfast.

A source at the Walz office told me the Hill didn't bother getting a comment from Walz. The concern brought to the committee was not voting for the bill if transgenders were included, but rather voting for a transgender specific amendment to the bill. So the Strib didn't describe Walz's and other Freshman positions properly.

It would have been nice for the Strib to get all Minnesota congress members on record about how they plan to vote on ENDA.

The Washington Blade compiled a list of where Democratic freshman stood on the trans inclusive bill.

Most freshmen House Democrats want to include transgender people in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, even though they generally hail from conservative districts.

More than 70 percent of the 43 House Democrats serving their first terms are co-sponsoring the trans-inclusive ENDA. That’s a stronger show of support than the lawmakers gave the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act.