House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told attendees last week at his first-ever meeting with the LGBT Equality Caucus there was “no way” the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would pass this year, according to a gay lawmaker who attended the meeting.
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who’s gay and one of the caucus co-chairs, volunteered information Tuesday night about the meeting in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol when the Washington Blade asked him about his views on the absence of the ENDA from the State of the Union address.
“A number of us did meet with, actually the caucus met with Speaker Boehner,” Takano said. “He said no way was it going to get done in this session.”
Calling the discussion between Boehner and the lawmakers “a historic sort of meeting,” Takano later clarified he was referring to the LGBT Equality Caucus, a 113-member group of lawmakers committed to advancing LGBT rights, and said the meeting took place “a few days ago” or last week.
A “session” of Congress is equivalent to one of the two years in which a particular Congress meets before a new Congress is seated, so Takano’s account of the meeting indicates ENDA won’t see a House vote in 2014.
Asked to clarify whether he meant that ENDA won’t come up this year, Takano said, “Yeah. He said it wasn’t going to happen in this session.”
Despite his account of the meeting, Takano remained optimistic about the passage of ENDA at a later time, perhaps after Election Day this year, saying “it’s still a huge priority for me to get that done.”
“There’s obviously differences between the two parties on ENDA, but, you know, who knows what can happen in a lame duck Congress?” Takano said.
Others with knowledge of the meeting declined to divulge on the record significant information, saying the meeting wasn’t open to staffers and not meant to be public. No one would disclose the exact date of the meeting or identify who participated.
But House aides did confirm the historic nature of the meeting, saying Boehner has never before met with the LGBT Equality Caucus and the discussion took place within the speaker’s office. Aides said Boehner has also met with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, but discussions in meetings like these are private.
Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesperson, responded to the Blade’s inquiries about the meeting by saying the speaker meets all the time with various groups on Capitol Hill.
“John Boehner is the speaker of the whole House, and often meets with groups of members from both sides of the aisle,” Steel said.
One aide said the entire 113-member caucus didn’t attend the meeting, although it was attended by more lawmakers than just the six co-chairs of the group, who consist of openly LGB members of the U.S. House. The co-chairs are Takano as well as Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.).
Brad Jacklin, executive director of the LGBT Equality Caucus, confirmed a meeting took place, but offered only a few details.
“A number of members asked to meet with the speaker, who tries to accommodate such requests,” Jacklin said. “It was a members-only meeting and was off the record. The Equality Caucus and its leadership continues to work together to educate members of the House on LGBT issues and build bipartisan support for legislation like ENDA.”
Jacklin took note that just this week, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) signed on as the sixth House Republican to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Immediately after the announcement, he received significant attention in the media for physically threatening a reporter from New York-affiliate NY1 who asked him about the current investigation into his potential violation of campaign finance law.