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Progressive lawmakers call on Pelosi to move on ENDA

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are circulating among U.S. House members a letter intended to encourage U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move forward with legislation barring job discrimination against LGBT people.

The letter obtained by the Blade, which a Democratic aide said isn’t yet final, urges Pelosi to work to pass Employment Non-Discrimination Act on the basis that it would contribute to her stated goal of creating and protecting American jobs.

“Now is a dire time for the American worker and we believe, H.R. 3017, the Employee Nondiscrimination Act is a vital piece in our economic recovery,” the draft letter states. “With the support of the Democratic leadership and the demonstrated commitment of the Administration, we believe this Congress will finally shut the door on employee discrimination.”

Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, already have their names on the letter.  Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a gay lawmaker, also has signed his name. He’s a member of the House Education & Labor Committee, where ENDA currently sits.

The letter cites analysis conducted by the Williams Institute showing “a persistent and unacceptable trend” of job discrimination against LGBT people. Additionally, the letter says ENDA is particularly necessary as the nation copes with high unemployment.

“Already struggling with an unemployment rate of over 9 percent, the American worker should not need to contend with an employer’s personal discomfort or bias against the sexual orientation or gender identity of an employee,” the letter states.

The letter maintains that ENDA will put LGBT people “on an even footing with every other employee” and that “turning a blind eye to harassment and discrimination against the LGBT community has too long been a stain on our otherwise proud record of worker protection.”

Whether Pelosi will schedule ENDA for a floor vote by the end of this year remains to be seen. She has said ENDA is a personal priority, but also that she wouldn’t bring the legislation up for a vote until legislative action on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is complete.

Download a PDF copy of the draft letter here. The text of the letter in its entirety follows:

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
US House of Representatives
H 232, the Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Madam Speaker:

Members of the Progressive Caucus thank you for unrelenting support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and for making American jobs a top priority
for the 111th Congress. Now is a dire time for the American worker and we believe, H.R. 3017, the Employee Nondiscrimination Act is a vital piece in our economic recovery. With the support of the Democratic leadership and the demonstrated commitment of the Administration, we
believe this Congress will finally shut the door on employee discrimination.

For nearly 20 years progressive members of Congress have been fighting to end discrimination and create a fair and equitable workplace for the LGBT community. In a metaanalysis conducted by the Williams Institute, statistics revealed a persistent and unacceptable trend towards open harassment, unfair hiring practices, unwarranted firings and unequal pay. As a caucus concerned with open-minded and progressive views, we take exception to this blatant
mistreatment.

As our economy works to recover, now seems the right time to thrust the American workforce into the 21st century with legislation that addresses discriminatory workplace
practices. Already struggling with an unemployment rate of over 9 percent, the American worker should not need to contend with an employer’s personal discomfort or bias against the sexual orientation or gender identity of an employee. States that have adopted anti-discrimination laws report higher employee satisfaction and company morale. Unfortunately, there are only 20 states and the District of Columbia with these policies in place and 12 that also encompass the
transgender community.

Employment, promotions and retention should be based on merit and merit alone. For the individual this means a safe and productive work environment where there is a focus on
results not a preoccupation with their choice in partner or gender identity. Employers, too, should set their sights on an egalitarian workplace that encourages a sense of community and teamwork. In fact, 94 percent of Fortune 100 companies have antidiscrimination policies protecting lesbian
and gay employees and 60 percent protect transgender employees. The best companies hire, promote and retain the best talent, all of which is only made possible by creating a supportive and accepting environment.

ENDA will put the LGBT community on an even footing with every other employee. Turning a blind eye to harassment and discrimination against the LGBT community has too long
been a stain on our otherwise proud record of worker protection. It is imperative to shine a light on this issue and add yet another achievement to this exceptionally accomplished Congress.

We look forward to working with you and to enact ENDA in the 111th Congress.

Sincerely,

_________________________
Raul Grijalva, CPC Co-Chair

_________________________

Lynn Woolsey, CPC Co-Chair

______________________
Jared Polis, CPC Member

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Congress

House passes Boebert’s amendment targeting LGBTQ workers at USDA

Democrats call measure ‘blatantly homophobic’

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U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Republicans on Wednesday pushed through a proposal by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from using federally appropriated funds for materials supporting the agency’s LGBTQ employees.

Passing by just three votes in the face of unified opposition from Democrats, along with one GOP member, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), the measure will never be signed into law amid Democratic control of the Senate and White House.

For weeks, Boebert and her ideological allies in the lower chamber have dashed hopes of forestalling a government shutdown by insisting on ladening must-pass spending bills with far-right demands, often targeting the LGBTQ community and initiatives promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Even so, the aim and scope of the Colorado congresswoman’s amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill was striking.

Among the 17 types of “courses, books, or study guides” circumscribed in the measure are those concerning “approaching LGBT issues in the workplace,” “understanding and supporting LGBTQ+ employees,” “becoming an ally to all,” “conversations with LGBTQ+ leaders on the power of identity,” and “creating an inclusive work community” for transgender employees.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Spokesperson Viet Shelton condemned House Republicans’ passage of the amendment in a statement shared with the Washington Blade:

“In a clear indication that so-called moderate Republicans are now completely controlled by their extreme fringes, they are now passing such blatantly homophobic legislation that mandates federal employees be discriminated against in the workplace,” he said. “Their focus on these hateful policies while ignoring middle class families struggling with rising costs is why they will lose their majority in Congress next year.”

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Politics

Candidates pledge support for anti-trans policies at second GOP presidential debate

Seven Republican hopefuls took the stage Wednesday night

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Second GOP presidential primary debate (Screen capture/Fox News)

During the second Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Vice President Mike Pence pledged their support for a national ban on gender-affirming healthcare for minors along with policies requiring schools to forcibly “out” trans students to their parents, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended the anti-LGBTQ policies in his state.

They were joined on stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library’s Air Force One Pavilion by former South Carolina governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

Former President Donald Trump, the party’s frontrunner, was again a no-show, declining to participate, instead campaigning in Michigan meeting with striking UAW autoworkers and other labor leaders.

Responding to debate moderator and Fox News host Dana Perino’s question about Christie’s promise to protect “parental rights” by passage of a federal law, Ramaswamy proclaimed that “transgenderism,” especially in kids, is “a mental health disorder.”

After Perino redirected him back to her question, Ramaswamy said when school officials are aware of cases in which a student may be socially transitioning, they must be obliged to inform parents.

“The very people who say that this increases the risk of suicide by are also the ones saying that parents don’t have the right to know about that increased risk of suicide,” he said, adding, “To affirm a kid’s confusion — that is not compassion, that is cruelty.”

The former biotech executive then promised a federal ban on healthcare interventions for trans youth, relaying an anecdote about meeting two women on the campaign trail who, he says, now regretted the gender affirming surgical procedures they had undergone.

Ramaswamy said the women are now in their 20s but did not specify how old they were when the surgeries — double mastectomies and, in one case, a hysterectomy — were performed.

Genital surgeries are almost never performed on patients younger than 18, per the clinical practice guidelines on the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors, which are supported and considered medically necessary by every mainstream scientific and medical body with relevant clinical knowledge.

“The fact that we allow that to happen in this country is barbaric,” Ramaswamy said, “so I will ban genital mutilation or chemical castration under the age of 18.”

Perino asked Pence how he would protect the LGBTQ community as president, noting the rise and escalation of violent attacks documented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and research showing LGBTQ people are nine times likelier to be victims of violent hate crimes.

The former vice president’s description of plans and policies on this front was brief and not terribly detailed. “I’ll stand up for the safety and the civil liberties of every American from every background,” he said before pivoting to affirm his support for rules requiring schools to effectively “out” transgender and gender nonconforming kids to their parents.

“Linn-Marr Community Schools in Iowa had a policy,” Pence said, in which “you had you had to have a permission slip from your parents to get a Tylenol, but you could get a gender transition plan without notifying your parents.”

“That’s crazy,” he said. “We’re going to stand up for the rights of parents.”

He concluded his answer with a pledge that “we’re going to pass a federal ban on transgender chemical or surgery anywhere in the country,” adding, “We’ve got to protect our kids from this radical gender ideology agenda.”

Some of DeSantis’ remarks also touched on the notion that progressive ideas about gender identity are being pushed on American youth in schools.

The governor defended education policies in his state that have been widely criticized as anti-LGBTQ and racist, proclaiming that “Our country’s education system is in decline because it’s focused on indoctrination, denying parents rights,” but “Florida represents the revival of American education.”

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Congress

Boebert denigrates, misgenders trans Pentagon official

Comments targeted Assistant Secretary of Defense Shawn Skelly

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Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) addresses a crowd outside of the U.S. Capitol building. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) denigrated and deliberately misgendered Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly, the Pentagon’s highest ranked transgender official, during a debate Wednesday over amendments to a defense appropriations bill.

In remarks that stirred outrage from her Democratic colleagues, the congresswoman called Skelly a “delusional man thinking he is a woman” and the embodiment of “woke-ism” before proposing an amendment that would reduce her salary to a dollar.

Skelly served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for 20 years as a naval flight officer before retiring with the rank of commander. Her record of service includes senior positions with the Defense and Transportation Departments during the Obama administration.

“Assistant Secretary Skelly has served in her role admirably, as she has done as her time as a naval officer,” responded U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), stressing each of the feminine pronouns as she spoke.

The second-term Colorado representative countered with more transphobic comments: “if you want to call Mr. Skelly a her, his chromosomes are still XY, and we trust the science over here rather than delusion and playing dress up and imaginary games with our military readiness.”

Boebert is among the more vocal members of an ultraconservative cohort of House Republicans who, in recent weeks, have sabotaged efforts to clear must-pass appropriations spending packages before Oct. 1 to forestall a government shutdown.

Members of the far-right faction have attached to these bills controversial, partisan, and often anti-LGBTQ amendments — effectively dooming their chances of passage by the U.S. Senate amid Democratic control of the chamber.

With respect to the Defense Department spending bill, for example, GOP members have advanced proposals that would defund healthcare services for transgender service members and ban Pride flags from military bases.

On X, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, wrote that “Republicans claim to support the military but Rep. Boebert, just spent five minutes misgendering and attacking our Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness — just because she’s trans. Ms. Skelly serves our country with honor. I can’t say the same for Boebert.”

The caucus added, “It’s disgusting that a Member of Congress would use their platform on the House Floor to misgender and attack a top-ranking @DeptofDefense official and veteran just because she’s a trans woman.”

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