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ENDA blame game underway

Dems cite GOP opposition; others fault Senate leadership

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LGBT activists targeted Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last week, urging him to advance ENDA. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Democratic senators are blaming Republican obstructionism for the Senate’s failure to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but others say a lack of strategy is preventing a vote.

The plight of ENDA in the Senate received renewed attention last week when GetEqual staged a protest in Las Vegas blocking traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard and demanding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) take action.

The legislation, stalled in the House and Senate, would prohibit job bias against LGBT people in most public and private workforce scenarios.

Democratic supporters say Republican opposition is preventing Senate action on the bill.

Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said Democratic leadership wants to move forward with ENDA, but noted difficulties in moving any item on the legislative agenda forward.

“We have a tough time moving anything on the calendar because of Republican filibusters,” Durbin said.

Still, Durbin said a vote on the legislation in September after lawmakers return from August recess is “possible,” while adding that timeframe is a “pretty hectic period.” He noted that a vote would more likely come in the period following the November election.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee where ENDA is pending, on Tuesday expressed similar grievances about Republican obstructionism.

Asked what’s keeping the legislation from coming to a Senate vote, Harkin simply replied, “Republicans.”

“It’s one of my priority items,” Harkin said. “I’d like to move it, but [I’m] not certain we’re going to have the time.”

Harkin said he couldn’t immediately recall if any particular part of the measure was causing controversy and keeping it from coming to a Senate vote.

“There’s been a lot of objections by certain Republicans on it,” Harkin said. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re not legitimate. I couldn’t even enumerate them right now, I forget what they are.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, also blamed Republicans for the failure to advance ENDA in the Senate. She also cited what she called a “general dysfunction” in the chamber as a problem.

“It’s certainly not all about ENDA,” she said. “It’s certainly, certainly not about transgender inclusion in ENDA. They can’t get campaign finance reform through, they can’t get, sometimes, job bills through.”

On Tuesday, Democratic leadership tried to move forward on a campaign finance reform bill known as the DISCLOSE Act. Republicans, who hold 41 of 100 seats in the chamber, were unified in their opposition and able to filibuster a motion to proceed with the legislation.

Still, ENDA is likely to fare better with Republicans in the Senate because the legislation has two GOP co-sponsors, Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, dismissed the notion that Republicans were holding up ENDA in the Senate and said “only the current Senate majority leadership can truly answer” why ENDA isn’t on the calendar.

“Blaming the minority leadership for the majority’s disorganization and lack of planning this year is simplistic and, frankly, lazy,” Cooper said. “Both sides of the aisle are frustrated with the lack of activity.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the sponsor for ENDA in the Senate, is hoping House passage of ENDA would jumpstart interest in passing it in the Senate, according to his office.

“I think, at this point, it’s kind of something that we’re waiting for the House to pass to build a little momentum here in the Senate, and then hopefully get going on it here,” said Mike Westling, a Merkley spokesperson.

But in response to inquiries on why the House hasn’t moved forward with the bill, House leadership pointed to the lack of a strategy for ENDA in the Senate.

“We should encourage the Senate to develop a course for ENDA to ensure that when the House passes the legislation, the Senate can move quickly to send the legislation to the president’s desk,” Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, earlier told the Blade.

Asked whether any discussions on a strategy to advance ENDA in the Senate have taken place, Durbin replied, “We have not reached that level.”

Harkin said he hadn’t yet done a whip count on the legislation and wasn’t sure whether the legislation would have 60 votes to pass.

“I just know that initial inquiries about getting a time limit on it were unfruitful,” he said. “So, without a time limit, we’re not going to bring anything up.”

Harkin said Senate leadership is “always looking” for other bills that could serve as a vehicle to move ENDA forward as an amendment, but didn’t name any potential legislation.

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Virginia

Va. Senate committee kills six anti-transgender bills

Democrats control chamber by 22-18 margin

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Senate Education Committee on Thursday killed six anti-transgender bills.

The committee rejected state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. All three measures would have banned transition-related health care for minors in Virginia.

The committee also killed state Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake)’s Senate Bill 911, Reeves’ Senate Bill 1186 and Peake’s Senate Bill 962. The measures would have banned transgender athletes from school teams corresponding with their gender identity.

Equality Virginia in a tweet said committee members received more than 3,000 emails “in opposition” to the bills. The statewide advocacy group further noted 10 out of 12 anti-trans bills introduced during this year’s legislative session have been defeated.

“Thank you to everyone who has spoken up against these bills,” said Equality Virginia. “Virginia is remaining a better, more inclusive state because of your efforts.”

“The fight isn’t over,” added the advocacy group. “But we know Virginians will show up for trans youth, day after day.”

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee essentially kills three anti-transgender bills

Measures would ban transition-related health care for minors

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Tuesday essentially killed three bills that would have banned transition-related health care for minors in the state.

Equality Virginia in a tweet noted the Senate Health Subcommittee “recommended killing” state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. 

“We expect these bills to be officially dead after the full committee meets on Thursday,” said Equality Virginia.

Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, and they have said they will block any anti-LGBTQ bill that reaches their chamber. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly transgender woman seated in a state legislature in the U.S., on Tuesday reiterated this point.

“With the defeat of these bills in the Senate, our (Virginia Senate Democrats) made it clear that *any* bills in the House targeting trans kids during the final week before crossover will not become law if they make it to the Senate,” she tweeted. “Let’s focus on feeding kids, not singling them out.”

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The White House

Doug Emhoff visits monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin

Second gentleman marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz

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The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism in Berlin on July 23, 2022. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the memorial on Jan. 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Tuesday visited a monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin.

A readout from Emhoff’s office notes he visited the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism with Philipp Braun of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ and intersex rights group. Christopher Schreiber and Alexander Scheld of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Federation were also with Emhoff.

“The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under Nazi Socialism is intended to honor the homosexual victims of National Socialism and at the same time ‘set a constant sign against intolerance, hostility and exclusion towards gays and lesbians,'” notes the readout.

Emhoff on Tuesday visited other memorials that honor the Sinti and Roma and people with disabilities who the Nazis killed. The second gentleman also visited Berlin’s Holocaust memorial before he met with five people who survived it.

The second gentleman earlier in the day participated in a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and met with Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s New Synagogue. Emhoff on Monday participated in a meeting at the city’s Topography of Terror Museum that focused on antisemitism.

International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1945, took place on Jan. 27. 

Emhoff, who is Jewish, traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum and participated in ceremonies that commemorated the camp’s liberation. He later attended a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, visited Oscar Schindler’s factory and met with Ukrainian refugees at a U.N. Refugee Agency community center before he traveled to Germany.

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