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ENDA under review prior to April reintroduction

Insiders mum on possible changes to bill

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Jared Polis, Colorado, United States House of Representatives, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade
Jared Polis, Colorado, United States House of Representatives, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) acknowledged a review process is underway for ENDA. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A long-standing piece of pro-LGBT legislation is under review and may be redrafted prior to its expected introduction in the U.S. House next month.

In an interview with the Washington Blade on Wednesday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the senior openly gay member of the U.S. House, announced that he plans to introduce in April the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a measure that would bar workplace discrimination against LGBT people.

“I’ll be the lead author of ENDA, which we are at least planning to reintroduce in April,” Polis said.

Multiple sources familiar with ENDA say the legislation is being reconsidered before its reintroduction in the 113th Congress, and maintain no final decisions on the bill have been made.

It’s unclear what the nature of the changes might be, but one source familiar with ENDA told the Washington Blade the bill is being reconsidered with respect to religious exemption and disparate impact to make the legislation’s protections stronger for LGBT workers than previously written. The changes are being considered under the assumption the legislation won’t pass anyway with Republicans in control of the U.S. House.

ENDA has previously included a strong religious exemption. In the most recent version of the bill, Section 6 provided an exemption for religious organizations and businesses that were also exempt under Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964.

The legislation also avoided the issue of disparate impact. Under that doctrine, which is found under Title VII, a violation of the law may be found if an employer has a practice that discriminates against workers, even though it doesn’t seem discriminatory on its face.

For example, a company that says it won’t hire anyone for a job who’s shorter than 5’10” could be found in violation of the law on the basis of gender discrimination because most women aren’t that tall. It’s unclear how disparate impact would apply to LGBT people.

Polis declined to identify any specific changes being contemplated to ENDA, but acknowledged a review process is underway.

“We’re going through ENDA now and have been working with many of the advocacy groups and my staff, and the [LGBT] Equality Caucus staff to make sure that concerns are addressed, and we’re going through that now,” Polis said.

In response to a follow-up question about whether changes would be made with respect to the religious exemption or disparate impact, Polis reiterated that a review process is happening.

“There haven’t been any decisions made yet about that,” Polis said. “We’re listening. We’re listening to folks in the equality community, and there are many different ideas on how to improve ENDA and we’re evaluating them and seeing where we have consensus.”

There may be other ways in which the bill is being reconsidered but no sources specifically identified any such changes to the Blade.

One possible change may be the way ENDA applies to small businesses. Under previous versions of the bill, the law would only apply to employers with 15 or more employees. Companies with fewer employees would be free to discriminate under federal law even if ENDA were passed.

LGBT advocacy groups that work on ENDA responded to the Blade’s inquiries on whether changes would be made to the bill by confirming the review process is underway.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said all pro-LGBT legislation is reviewed prior to reintroduction at the start of a new Congress.

“Every Congress, legislation is reviewed with an eye toward making any needed changes or improvements,” Sainz said. “The goal is always to better the lives of LGBT people. This process is underway with every piece of legislation.”

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, also acknowledged the review process and said he welcomes changes that would provide stronger protections for LGBT people.

“Prior to reintroduction in any Congress, legislation should always be reviewed in light of political and legal developments that may necessitate changes,” Thompson said. “I am firmly of the belief that this should always be done with an eye toward securing the strongest possible protections for LGBT people.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, declined to comment.

Lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) told SiriusXM Out Q’s Michelangelo Signorile in an interview this week that stakeholders are working the bill by “getting it in final form.”

“Right now the author of the legislation is engaged in negotiations to put finishing touches on the version of the bill that will be introduced, perhaps right after the break for Easter and Passover,” Baldwin said.

It’s not yet clear whether the final language for ENDA  in the House version of the bill sponsored by Polis and the Senate bill that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has previously sponsored would be identical. Polis suggested the two versions of the bill may be different when asked if his introduction of ENDA would be concurrent with Merkley’s introduction of the bill.

“No decision made in terms of that,” Polis said. “Those are also [decisions] to be made in terms of do you do it on the same day, and do you do different versions or the same version. There are always all those decisions to be made around timing of bills.”

Jamal Raad, a Merkley spokesperson, said a bipartisan group of lawmakers is at work on ENDA prior to its reintroduction, identifying Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who’s been an original co-sponsor in the past.

“We are currently working with Senator Kirk’s team and stakeholders, and hope to reintroduce soon,” Raad said.

Asked if any changes would be made to ENDA, Raad replied, “We are reviewing the language with cosponsors and stakeholders, but no decision has been made.”

Stakeholders affirmed that they’re committed to ensuring the bill includes protections based on gender identity and expression. Polis maintained he wants an inclusive bill.

“I’m firmly committed to ensuring this is an inclusive bill and will address the issue of discrimination in the transgender community,” Polis said.

Asked to clarify whether the gender identity protections would be modified in any way, Polis said a listening process is underway without identifying any change in particular.

“We are in the process of listening to folks in the equality community — both the transgender community as well as the gay community,” Polis said. “We’ve gotten a lot of good input into improving the bill. We’re trying to see where we can forge consensus, and again, no decisions have been made about the final language.”

In 2007, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) invoked the ire of many in the LGBT community when he advanced a version of ENDA without the gender identity protections, saying the votes weren’t present to pass a transgender-inclusive bill. Frank later came to believe ENDA must be passed with gender identity protections.

 

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Nikki Hatch

    March 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    It's about damn time! This bill hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell of passing; however, it starts a discussion about a serious problem and gets people thinking about the reality of discrimination that many LG and especially Trans people face on a regular basis. Even if it never gets a vote and dies in committee, it starts the dialogue.

  2. Nikki H

    March 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

    It’s about damn time! This bill hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in Hell of passing; however, it starts a discussion about a serious problem and gets people thinking about the reality of discrimination that many LG and especially Trans people face on a regular basis. Even if it never gets a vote and dies in committee, it starts the dialogue, which is progress.

  3. Emelye Waldherr

    March 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    If this bill is to be introduced as a symbolic gesture then they should just change it so it adds gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and be done with it. ENDA is far too limited and gives away too much to the haters.

    • Christøpher Casey Bøe

      March 24, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      you are exactly correct — thank you.

  4. Cameron Robert

    March 22, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    I'll never understand why Rethuglican, conservative, right-wing, religious fanatics think they can force other normal people to accept their deviant views and lifestyle. They love to tell other people how to live their lives, while their own lives are in shambles. The Christian (esp. Catholic, Mormon, Evangelical, and Southern Baptist) Taliban in this country are going to face a violent wake up call soon if they keep trying to spread their hatred, intolerant views, and intolerant actions on normal Americans. And it is patently unfair that gays and their loved ones should be devastated by discriminatory actions, while the bigots and their families go about enjoying their lives as if nothing is wrong. It's time to start making bigots pay for the discriminatory actions they take. When they have to pay a price, they might start to rethink their actions. Anyone reading this should take WHATEVER ACTIONS POSSIBLE to harm any of the bigoted legislators, or their loved ones, to make them pay for the harm they are doing to the people they discriminate against.

    • Steve from Texas

      March 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      “The Christian (esp. Catholic, Mormon, Evangelical, and Southern Baptist) in this country are going to face a violent wake up call soon”

      Violent wake up call……….sounds to me that you are a violent hater yourself. Just because people of faith disagree with your “alternative” livestyle which is not “normal” you claim they are “haters” and you use such hateful words like

      “Rethuglican, conservative, right-wing, religious fanatics”
      “Taliban”
      “bigots and their families”

      “When they have to pay a price, they might start to rethink their actions”
      the same can go for you as well, Cameron Robert

      Really, this isn’t about gay rights. The left doesn’t give a damn about gay rights. The left hasn’t done anything for the gay community except to offer it lip service and inaction. While leftist groups fight for “marriage equality” the Obama administration makes marriage an economic hit with horrible policy. You got bait and switched, leftists!
      No, the left cares nothing for gay rights, but they’ll pretend to if they can use the bloc as a wedge to pry the populace from the influence of the church. Why? because it’s easier to convince people that their civil liberties fall under the dominion of man, of government, if the church is portrayed as inept and anachronistic. This is the entire goal. Once man, sinful, awful man controls your rights, your existence as an individual ends and your life as a statist serf begins.

  5. Brian Alms

    March 24, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I'll be surprised if Boehner allows this bill to proceed. If he did, it would send a positive message to the LGBT community. If he doesn't, then he is a lost cause. This bill is a pretty minimal thing and not really controversial anymore except with religious fundamentalists. If Boehner balks, we should try to get 218 members to vote on a discharge petition to bring ENDA to the floor. At least that would put people on the record as to who are our friends and enemies. There are at least some Republicans (especially those in suburban districts) who would not want their name associated with a defense of discrimination.

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‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men

Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age

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Mark Glaze's death by suicide is bringing into focus mental health issues faced by gay men.

The death by suicide at age 51 of Mark Glaze, a gun reform advocate who was close to many in D.C.’s LGBTQ community, is striking a chord with observers who see his struggles with mental health and alcoholism as reflective of issues facing many gay men as they enter middle age.

Glaze’s story resonates even though much of the attention on mental health issues in the LGBTQ community is devoted to LGBTQ youth going through the coming out process and transgender people who face disproportionate violence and discrimination within the LGBTQ community in addition to a growing focus on LGBTQ seniors entering later stages of life.

Randy Pumphrey, senior director of behavioral health for the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health, said Glaze’s story was “very familiar” as a tale of mental health issues facing gay men in the middle stage of life.

“You’re talking about a gay-identified man who is in his 50s, somebody who has struggled with alcohol misuse — or maybe abuse or dependence— and also depression,” Pumphrey said. “I think that there has always been a higher incidence of suicide for men in general in their middle age 50 and above, but this increases when you’re talking about gay men, and also if you’re talking about gay men who suffer with mental health issues, or substance use disorder issues.”

Several sources close to Glaze said his death did not come as a surprise. His family has been open about his death by suicide last month while he was in jail after allegedly fleeing the scene of a car accident in Pennsylvania and a long history of depression and alcoholism.

Pumphrey said Glaze’s situation coping with mental health issues as well as the consequences for his role in the accident, were reflective of someone who might “begin to perceive that this is an issue that they can’t get away from, or the consequences they can’t get away from exposure and that can lead somebody to a fatal outcome.”

“My experience is that there have been gay men that I have worked with over the years — particularly in their 50s and early 60s — it’s taken them a long time to recognize the severity of the problem, whether it’s their depression or their substance abuse, and then they find themselves in a very precarious situation because of shame, and so they may not necessarily seek help even though they need help.”

A 2017 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found the prevalence of depression among gay men is three times higher than the general adult population, which means they are a subgroup at high risk for suicide.

The study found “scant research exists about gay men’s health beyond sexual health issues,” most often with HIV, which means issues related to depression and suicidality “are poorly understood.”

“Gay men’s health has often been defined by sexual practices, and poorly understood are the intersections of gay men’s physical and mental health with social determinants of health including ethnicity, locale, education level and socioeconomic status,” the study says.

The study acknowledged being male itself is one factor incorporated in addressing mental health issues in this subgroup because “regardless of sexual orientation, men can be reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.” Another study quoted in the report found 23 percent, less than one quarter of gay men, who attempted suicide sought mental health or medical treatment.

In addition to mental health issues facing gay men in Glaze’s age group, others saw his situation as a common story in the culture of Washington, which is notorious for celebrating and prioritizing success with little tolerance for personal setbacks.

In the case of Glaze, who had sparred on Fox News with Tucker Carlson as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the threat of exposure and threat to his career may have seemed overwhelmingly daunting.

Steven Fisher, who knew Glaze since the 1990s and worked with him at the D.C.-based Raben Group, said one factor that contributed to Glaze’s condition was “he could only see upward in terms of his career trajectory.”

“We saw that in him and it had me very concerned because I felt like he might end up in a place that wasn’t good once he left Everytown, and that’s tragically and sadly what happened,” Fisher said. “I think he just had trouble adjusting to what is usually a roller coaster ride, I think, in people’s careers, especially in the D.C. world.”

Along with Glaze, Fisher has worked on gun issues for Everytown, which has been a client of his since 2015 after he worked for them in 2012 after the Newtown shooting.

Compounding the challenges that Glaze faced is a culture among many gay men focused on sexuality, which prioritizes youth and appearance and presents problems as those qualities start fading when men enter middle age.

Fisher said another factor in Glaze’s condition was social media, pointing out public perception about his identity was important to him.

“If you look at his social media — I think this is instructive to the rest of us — a lot of the comments are about how Mark was so good looking and he was charming, and he was so smart and so funny,” Fisher said. “That’s all true, and that’s why he was very appealing to many people, but those qualities don’t really tell you everything about a person. In fact, one could argue they’re superficial in a way, and people have to remember people are more complicated than what you see on social media.”

One issue for gay men facing mental health issues as they enter middle age is they don’t have the same resources as those available to LGBTQ youth, who have been more of a focus in terms of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community.

Among the leading organizations for LGBTQ youth is the Trevor Project, which has resources and a hotline for LGBTQ youth facing mental health crises.

Kevin Wong, vice president of communications for the Trevor Project, said his organization would be receptive to an older LGBTQ person who calls the hotline, but ultimately would refer that person elsewhere.

“If an LGBTQ person above the age of 25 reaches out to The Trevor Project’s crisis services for support and expresses suicidal thoughts, our counselors will listen, actively and with empathy, and work with them to de-escalate and form a safety plan, like any other contact,” Wong said. “However, our organization has remained youth-centric since its founding and our volunteer crisis counselors are specifically trained with younger LGBTQ people in mind.”

Much attention is focused on the coming out process for LGBTQ people, a time that can upend close relationships — as well as reaffirm them — and a process more commonly associated with youth.

Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said data is scant about suicide rates among LGBTQ people, but information on suicide attempts shows they tend to be at a heightened rate for LGBTQ people as they go through the coming out process.

“What we do know is that there is a connection with the coming out period at whatever age coming out happens,” Meyer said. “And so, we see a proximity to coming out whatever age that happened, we see the suicide attempts proceeding and after that.”

Suicide attempts, Meyer said, are much higher for LGBTQ people than the population at large. The self-reported rate of suicide attempts in the U.S. population as a whole, Meyer said, is 2.4 percent, but that figure changes to 20 to 30 percent among LGBTQ youth, which about to 10 to 15 times greater.

Black and Latino people, Meyer said, have been less likely to make suicide attempts in their lifetimes, although he added that may be changing in recent years.

With the primary focus on mental health issues elsewhere in the LGBTQ community, Glaze’s death raises questions about whether sufficient resources are available to people in his demographic, or whether individuals are willing to seek out care options that are available.

Meyer said whether the resources for suicidal ideologies among LGBTQ people are sufficient and what more could be done “is the the million-dollar question.”

“It’s definitely not determined by just mental health,” Meyer said. “So many people have depression, but they don’t attempt suicide. And so, then the difficult thing is to find the right moment to intervene and what that intervention should be.”

Meyer said much of the focus on mental health is on a person’s last moments before making a suicide attempt, such as making suicide hotlines readily available, but some of the stressors he sees “are more chronic, ongoing things related to homophobia and the kind of experience that LGBT people have as they come to terms to realize their sexual identity.”

Pumphrey said another factor in mental health issues not to be underestimated for almost two years now is “dealing with the COVID and loneliness epidemic,” which appears to have no immediate end in sight with the emergence of the Omnicron variant.

“There was always this piece of sometimes the experience of being in your 50s and early 60s…we talk about the invisibility factor,” Pumphrey said. “But when there’s just this sense of being disconnected from community, especially in the early days of the pandemic, and kind of being locked down, I think that just raised the risk.”

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U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS to be held virtually Dec. 2-3

Fauci, Levine, Pelosi to speak at opening session

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Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health, is among speakers at this week’s U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health who became the nation’s highest-ranking transgender public official earlier this year, are among dozens of experts scheduled to participate in the 25th Annual U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS scheduled to take place virtually Dec. 2-3.

Fauci and Levine were scheduled to join Harold Phillips, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, as speakers at the conference’s opening plenary session at noon on Thursday, Dec. 2. 

Phillips and Levine were expected to provide information about President Joe Biden’s plans for updating the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which Biden was scheduled to announce on Dec. 1 at a White House World AIDS Day event.

Members of the U.S. People Living With HIV Caucus were also expected to discuss the federal policy agenda on HIV/AIDS at the opening plenary session. 

In addition to the opening plenary and three other plenary sessions, one more on Thursday, Dec. 2, and two on Friday, Dec. 3, the conference was scheduled to include 140 workshop sessions on a wide variety of HIV/AIDS related topics.

The annual United States Conference on HIV/AIDS is organized by the D.C.-based national HIV/AIDS advocacy organization NMAC, which was formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council before it changed its name to that of its widely known initials NMAC. 

“NMAC leads with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America,” the organization states on its website. “Health equity with communities of color is everyone’s challenge.”

Several of the workshop sessions cover the topic of expanding the local, state, and national efforts of using pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs known as PrEP as a means of preventing HIV infection. 

Other workshop sessions include: HIV CURE – Hot Topics in HIV Cure Research; A Town Hall on Aging and HIV; COVID, HIV, and Racism – How Providers Can Make a Difference; Expanding the Pleasure and HIV Prevention Toolkit: Kink As Harm Reduction; It’s About Time – HIV Research Just For Transgender Women; and Impact of COVID-19 on HIV Prevention Services Among U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Funded Community Based Organizations.

The conference’s fourth and closing plenary session, Foundation Stones to Building the EHE Effort in Indian County, “will highlight the work of those addressing HIV and COVID in Indian Country, rural states and among Alaska Natives with limited infrastructure,” according to a conference agenda statement. 

“This plenary addresses these challenges and provides innovative solutions by the Indian Country – making the case to support Native HIV care by providing essential building blocks,” the agenda statement says. 

Paul Kawata, NMAC’s executive director, says in a statement in the conference’s agenda booklet that he and his NMAC team are disappointed that the 2021 conference is being held virtually for the second year in a row.

“But we felt the issue of safety was simply too critical to ignore,” Kawata said in his statement. “I’ve been very concerned about our loved ones over 50 living with HIV through the whole COVID pandemic,” he said, noting that people in that category were dealing with isolation as well as a higher risk for COVID.

“I hope this conference, even though it is virtual, will help alleviate some of that isolation,” Kawata said. “We’ve worked very hard to make this conference not just an opportunity for training and education, but a chance to connect with others, reinforce those strands in your support net, and hopefully, establish some new connections.”

More information about the U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS and instructions on registering to attend can be obtained at nmac.org.

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N.C. lieutenant governor compares gays to cow feces, maggots

“If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said

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North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (Blade file photo)

WINSTON-SALEM – Speaking to parishioners at the Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem last Sunday, November 14, North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson attacked the LGBTQ+ community in remarks caught on the church’s livestreaming video on YouTube.

Robinson said in his sermon that he questioned the “purpose” of being gay; said heterosexual couples are “superior” to gay couples; and that he didn’t want to explain to his grandchildren why two men are kissing if they see that on television the Charlotte Observer reported.

The state’s Republican Lt. Governor then went on to compare being gay to “what the cows leave behind” as well as maggots and flies, who he said all serve a purpose in God’s creation. “If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said.

Democratic lawmakers expressed their outrage on Twitter:

According to the Observer, “The video was distributed Friday by a pastor at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, the day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance. A protest rally was held Friday in front of Robinson’s office, but organizers also read the names of transgender people who have been killed.

This man’s theology and religious practices are not only flawed and a perversion of the Christian tenets; he places countless people at risk of violent attacks and even murder every time he opens his mouth,” said Vance Haywood, senior pastor at St. John’s, in a statement.

Robinson is expected to run for the governor’s chair in 2024. In another video of the sermon captured the Lt. Governor ranting in transphobic terms his opinion of the Trans community:

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (Twitter Video)

Video of remarks made by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson courtesy of the Charlotte Observer.

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