Frank Predicts March Vote For Gay Protections Bill
BY CARLOS SANTOSCOY
PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 22, 2010
Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank expects a bill that would make employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity illegal to reach the House floor next month.
Frank, the nation's most powerful openly gay elected official and the House sponsor of the bill, made his remarks in an interview with gay weekly DC Agenda.
A November postponement of a final committee markup on the House version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) left activists lobbying for its passage anxious over the bill's future. At the time, a spokesperson for the committee said lawmakers were working on “legal and technical” issues, but added that the markup was still expected to take place before the end of the year.
“We were very close just before we snowed out to basically come to an agreement on a bill that would get a majority vote in the Education & Labor Committee,” Frank said.
“The speaker has promised me that as soon as it passes the committee, she'll bring it up to the floor of the House [for a vote],” he added.
Frank predicted the bill would clear the committee next week and reach the House floor next month.
Passage in the Democrat-controlled House, where the bill has attracted 197 co-sponsors, is almost certain. Less certain, however, are its prospects in the Senate. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is the sponsor of the bill's Senate version.
The bill's included transgender protections appear to be a sticking point among committee members.
“There has always been a problem with the question of people who are transgender in situations where people are totally or partially unclothed,” Frank said.
Previously, Frank successfully sponsored a House version of ENDA that did not include transgender protections, but the effort fizzled in the Senate.
Opponents of the bill say the legislation impinges on religious freedoms.
“This bill will mean that employers will be forced to make employment decisions against their religious beliefs,” Ashley Home, federal policy analyst for the Christian-based group Focus on the Family, told Citizen Link.