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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Kennedy Pushing for ENDA Vote in 2008

Washington Blade:

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is expected to push for a Senate vote in 2008 on the same gay-only version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that the House of Representatives passed in 2007, a Kennedy spokesperson said this week.

Kennedy stated on the Senate floor on Nov. 8, one day after the House passed ENDA by a vote of 235 to 184, that he hoped the Senate would follow suit by passing the employment protection bill in the current Congress, which lasts through 2008.

But until this week, Kennedy’s office had not stated publicly where Kennedy stood on the demands by many gay and transgender organizations that Congress should withhold any action on ENDA unless it includes protection for transgender persons.

“Although Sen. Kennedy strongly supports protections against job discrimination for transgender workers, inaction won’t advance justice for anyone, and will just make it harder to pass any version of ENDA in 2009,” said Kennedy spokesperson Melissa Wagoner.

“We will most likely work to move the House-passed bill, rather than introducing a separate Senate bill,” Wagoner told the Blade by e-mail. “Because the same legislation must pass both the House and Senate, now that the House has acted, the only realistic way to get a bill to the president’s desk this Congress is to have the Senate pass the House bill.”

Asked if Kennedy thought ENDA could pass the Senate in an election year, Wagoner said, “Yes, if enough Republicans support the bill to give us a realistic chance of breaking a filibuster.”

Most political observers have predicted Republican senators opposing ENDA will stage a filibuster against the legislation, which requires 60 votes to break through a parliamentary move known as cloture. Kennedy and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who has joined Kennedy as a chief sponsor of ENDA, have said they were hopeful they could line up a bipartisan “super majority” of at least 60 senators to ensure the bill’s passage.

Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said this week that Reid strongly supports ENDA and favors holding a Senate vote on the measure in 2008. Manley said Reid would defer to Kennedy on the “strategy and timing” of such a vote.

Some transgender activists aren't happy. We'll see if OutFront Minnesota and United ENDA puts out alerts to oppose this bill the way they did for the house bill.