With Labor Day over, Congress is back in Washington. We all know that they have a great deal on their plate, including ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Soon, we’ll know when the House will hold a full hearing on the importance of creating workplace protections for LGBT people. Then they will vote, and with our visible and vocal support, we have every reason to believe that ENDA is finally within reach. Then, on to the Senate!
There are two things I know about ENDA:
It is long overdue.
It will not pass without our hard work.
Let’s turn up the heat on Capitol Hill. We must hold their feet to the fire. Congress must feel the pressure and feel the urgency to act.
We are at the tipping point: ENDA is pending in the House and Senate, there is leadership and strong bipartisan co-sponsorship in the House, and the community is united. Congressional action is imminent.
For the past year, NCLR has been working extremely closely with partner organizations to pass ENDA for the LGBT community and for all those who face discrimination in the workplace based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Strategically, methodically, and relentlessly working.
I want to tell you about NCLR’s amazing year of work on ENDA.
NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter testified at the first congressional hearing ever held on workplace discrimination against transgender people—a critical piece of advocacy that changed the tenor on Capitol Hill. Then, to keep the profile of an inclusive ENDA high and the momentum going, NCLR wrote targeted pieces on ENDA to both Congressmembers and the Obama Administration.
We worked with a broad partnership of our movement’s national organizations who came together to formally establish a lasting coalition to engage 400 state and local organizations committed to an inclusive ENDA—an ENDA to protect the entire LGBT community. We’ve worked to build the momentum through action alerts and coalition conference calls, pushing for grassroots action through in-district and town hall meetings, and many more efforts.
When Congressmembers Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin told us that constituent action in Congressmembers’ home districts was the key to passing ENDA, NCLR acted immediately, hiring the only staffer in the coalition whose time is exclusively devoted to exactly that endeavor: Jaan Williams, NCLR’s organizer, who works full-time in our Washington Regional Office. Every day, he works to engage constituents to educate Congressmembers and their staffs about the problem of gender identity discrimination, to organize local action teams, and to build grassroots support for an inclusive ENDA.
Jaan has talked with hundreds of individuals in key districts all over the country. He has travelled to Denver, Colorado; Portland, Maine; and San Francisco, California to engage individuals and organizations in the effort. In April, he joined NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter as a trainer with the National Center for Transgender Equality on their Capitol Hill lobby days. In July, Jaan went to St. Louis, Missouri to attend the Equality Federation’s conference, helping to ramp up the grassroots efforts by meeting with important state leaders. And we will continue to send Jaan to critical areas and meetings in order to build support to pass ENDA. Jaan is a great addition to the NCLR team. He’s energetic, dedicated, and hardworking, and his efforts all over the country have helped nail down key votes on Capitol Hill.
I am proud of our work on ENDA, to end discrimination against LGBT people, and I am proud of the work of our partner organizations, too. On inclusion specifically, NCLR has long been a leader, advocating to end discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people through nationwide protections. The ENDA work is just one piece of our efforts, but it is a vital one because nationwide protections are at stake. Because ENDA is a top legislative priority, we’ve poured significant staff time and energy into this effort every single week this year.
I know it feels like passing ENDA shouldn’t even be a big deal for Congress. Discrimination against LGBT people is so clearly wrong and banning it so clearly right. Passage of this (actually rather modest) legislation was so practical and long overdue that President Obama campaigned on ENDA’s passage.
But let’s face reality: the deal is not done until the House and Senate pass the legislation, and the President signs the bill into law. So we are working tirelessly on ENDA—advocating, organizing, writing, and doing everything we can to get lawmakers to make ENDA the law of the land.
Now is our moment in Washington. Our hard work on ENDA will pave the way future LGBT issues on Capitol Hill, and around the country. I can’t put it any more plainly than this: passing ENDA is essential to winning so much more.
We’re pouring our hearts and key resources into the ENDA effort.
Congress must hear from you that this bill is a priority, that you want it, and that you need it. If you haven’t contacted your Representative and Senators, please do it right now. If you already have, please do it again. It is up to all of us to pass ENDA.
Together, we’ve reached the “leave no stone unturned” moment. We’re on it. What are you willing to do?