Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Wednesday that he expects the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to be introduced in the House “any day now” but he remains skeptical about its chances for passage in the 112th Congress.
“We’re going to be [introducing the bill] any day now,” Frank told the Washington Blade. “We’ll introduce it the way it was introduced last year. But that one — there’s no real prospects for in this Congress, but we are going reintroduce it.”
As it was introduced in the previous Congress, ENDA would bar job bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most private and public workforce settings.
But the general consensus among Capitol Hill observers is that passage of any pro-LGBT legislation, including ENDA, will be a significant challenge for at least two years with Republicans in control of the U.S. House. Last year, Frank told the Blade there would be “zero chance” for the passage of any legislation that would directly benefit the LGBT community.
Still, Frank said introduction of the legislation is important to educate the public and members of Congress, especially on the transgender protections included in the bill.
“It’s important to introduce it to give people a chance to lobby their members on it,” Frank said. “Having a bill there encourages people to lobby their members. Particularly, we need people to do more lobbying and educating on the transgender issue, and so having a bill there is a very important part of getting the votes ultimately to be able to pass it.”
Frank, the longest-serving openly gay member of Congress, said he didn’t immediately have an estimate for how many co-sponsors he would have for ENDA upon its introduction, but said the legislation may have some Republican supporters based upon conversations he had in the 111th Congress.
“I personally talked to nine Republicans who were ready to vote for the bill with transgender inclusion last year,” Frank said. “We lost [former Delaware Rep.] Mike Castle, but I believe we will have some co-sponsors. But I worked very hard on Republicans. We did have nine Republican hard commitments to vote with us against any effort to knock out transgender.”
Frank was referring to potential motion to recommit in the 111th Congress in which opponents of ENDA could have called for a vote on a portion of ENDA — such as the transgender protections — to return the legislation to committee and scuttle the bill.
“Without the transgender piece, you have a dozen, but on the transgender issue, we had, as I said, nine commitments and we’ll be approaching them to see how many of them will co-sponsor,” Frank added.
Asked whether the House introduction of ENDA would coincide with a Senate introduction, Frank said he was unsure.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference. What difference does it make whether it’s simultaneous or not? I don’t focus on things that have no significance.”
In the previous Congress, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced the Senate version of ENDA. It was the first time that a Senate version of ENDA had been introduced with transgender protections. On Friday, Julie Edwards, a Merkley spokesperson, said she had no updates for when ENDA would introduced in the Senate during the 112th Congress.
Even though Democrats remain in control of the Senate, Frank said he doesn’t think supporters of the legislation in that chamber will be able to pass ENDA in that chamber alone.
Asked about the prospects for Senate passage of ENDA, Frank replied, “No. Because first of all you need 6o votes. Secondly, the way it works — if there is zero chance of passing a controversial bill in the other house, the one house, people say, ‘Why should I do that?”‘
“It’s very hard to get members to vote for a controversial bill in any case, but to get them to vote for a controversial bill when there’s no chance of passing it in the other house becomes impossible,” Frank added.