A Republican supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act affirmed Tuesday night that long-pursued legislation to bar employers from discriminating against LGBT workers won’t become law before the year is out.
Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), one of eight House Republican co-sponsors of ENDA, made the assessment about the bill during brief remarks at a “Voices of Hope” LGBT reception hosted by the group Human Rights First at the Newseum in D.C.
“With the ENDA bill, disappointingly it’s not going to become law this Congress, but the fight continues as we move into the 114th Congress,” Gibson said.
Despite the Republican takeover of the Senate and an expanded Republican majority in the House, Gibson was optimistic about a path forward for the bill in the upcoming Congress.
“I’m engaged with leadership here, and what we want to do is get right out there again with the bill and to expand the level of support, and look for that legislative strategy that will get it into law,” Gibson said.
It’s not a surprise Gibson would predict ENDA won’t happen this Congress, but his words bring a sense of finality to the bill that many observers had already said wouldn’t pass before the year is out. The House is expected to adjourn on Wednesday after approving a $1.1 trillion funding measure to keep the government in operation, and the Senate may adjourn for the year next week.
Although the Senate passed the legislation on a bipartisan basis by a 64-32 vote last year, the Republican-controlled House never took up the measure. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reportedly said during a meeting with the LGBT Equality Caucus in January there was “no way” the bill would come up for a vote this year. After Election Day, Capitol Hill sources told the Washington Blade the bill was dead in the water, although supporters of the legislation insisted they were moving forward.
Gibson was one of the six Republican supporters of ENDA who wrote the House speaker last week asking him to a allow a vote on ENDA as part of some other legislative package, such as the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill. But efforts to amend the defense bill didn’t pan out in the Senate and the House Rules Committee last week rejected an amendment from Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) to amend the legislation with ENDA in the House.
During his remarks, Gibson also spoke about the need to pass the International Human Rights Defense Act, which would create a special envoy within the State Department to serve as principle adviser on international LGBT issues, and touted getting significant portions of legislation against international domestic violence incorporated within the defense authorization bill.
Gibson also alluded to the addition on Monday of protections based on sexual orientation to the non-discrimination clause of Principle 6 within the charter for the International Olympic Committee.
“We have to, I think, at the same time that we’re not satisfied with the level and pace of progress, we should also take note and really savor the moments when we have discernible progress, whether that be with the International Violence Against Women [Act], or just in recent days, with regard to an action that I’m sure you join me in pursuing, and that was to bring more justice to the Olympics and to ensure equal protection,” Gibson said.
After his remarks, Gibson told the Washington Blade he intended to take part in efforts to pass comprehensive non-discrimination legislation for LGBT people and had a meeting this week on the issue with the pro-LGBT Republican group American Unity Fund.
Also speaking at the reception was Aditi Hardikar, the new White House LGBT liaison. In her remarks, she talked about the Obama administration’s efforts on international LGBT rights and the recent passage of anti-gay laws overseas, saying countries enacting such measures are using LGBT issues as a “scapegoat” to distract from other issues.
“Around the world we’ve seen some terrible legislative setbacks, but I did want to mention that in almost all of those cases, it’s due to kind of a craven political calculation,” Hardikar said. “True, in a lot of the nations that these bills have passed, it’s sort of among a religious, conservative community, whether that’s Muslim, Christian or what have you, but I think the groundswell reaction and sort of the intensified attitudes toward LGBT people and anti-LGBT people is really due to these sort of craven political calculations and often sort of these hateful imports from the West, quite frankly.”
Hardikar urged humility from people in the United States who are concerned about LGBT rights overseas, saying efforts should continue to change perspectives so people in other countries feel comfortable about coming out.
“I think it’s important for us to frame this as not an us-versus-them problem,” Hardikar said. “We have to think creatively about ways in which we engage because I really think that this is sort of the key and the crux of how to advance LGBT rights abroad. I think it’s really about changing hearts and minds just as we have seen in this country.”