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Rockefeller to become 52nd ENDA sponsor

Anti-bias bill has more supporters than any other LGBT bill in history

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Jay Rockefeller, Democratic Party, United States Senate, West Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
United States Senate, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Jay Rockfeller is the latest U.S. senator to co-sponsor ENDA (Photos public domain)

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has signaled he’ll add his name to the growing number of lawmakers who’ve signed on as co-sponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — giving it arguably more co-sponsors than any other LGBT bill in history.

In a statement provided to Washington Blade via email, the senior senator from West Virginia confirmed that he signed would become the 52nd U.S. senator to sponsor the anti-LGBT job bias legislation.

“The fact that discrimination is tolerated anywhere in our country needs to be addressed once and for all,” Rockefeller said. “The integrity of our nation, and our ability to be a credible global leader on human rights, means that all people must be treated equally under the law.”

In the past week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) have announced they’ll co-sponsor ENDA. The legislation now has a total of 51 co-sponsors, which, in addition to support from lead sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), means the bill has a total of 52 sponsors.

The new co-sponsors means the 2013 version of ENDA now has more sponsors than the 2001 version of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act sponsored by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, which previously held the record for the most sponsors of any LGBT bill.

ENDA arguably now has more co-sponsors than any legislation in history devoted to LGBT issues — beating out the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill, hate crimes protections legislation and the Respect for Marriage Act in terms of the number of co-sponsors.

However, the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a larger bill that included LGBT protections, had 62 sponsors, the 1990 Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act had 67 sponsors and the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which enables the collection of hate crimes data for several groups including gay people, had 61 sponsors.

Rockefeller’s co-sponsorship of ENDA is also noteworthy because West Virginia lacks any statewide LGBT employment non-discrimination protections. The other senator from the state, Sen. Joe Manchin (D), has yet to indicate whether he supports ENDA.

While the legislation has more than majority support in the days after President Obama called for passage of ENDA during the White House Pride reception, it’s still short of the 60 votes necessary. Four Democrats are still not ENDA co-sponsors: Manchin, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.).

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, commended Rockefeller for signaling his support and called on Manchin to follow suit.

“Freedom to Work applauds Sen. Rockefeller for becoming ENDA’s 52nd co-sponsor, and we call on his colleague from West Virginia, Sen. Manchin, to join the bipartisan majority of of senators supporting basic workplace protections for LGBT Americans,” Almeida said.

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Congress

HRC ad campaign slams ‘extremist’ House GOP’s role in looming government shutdown

Funding deadline is Oct. 1.

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U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Human Rights Campaign launched an ad campaign on Monday slamming House Republicans for advancing anti-LGBTQ and other “out of touch demands” rather than working to clear must-pass spending bills before the month’s end to avoid a government shutdown.

In the weeks since Congress returned from the summer recess, opportunities to forestall this outcome narrowed with each passing day as small groups of the GOP conference’s most conservative members obstructed votes, led an open rebellion against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and added anti-LGBTQ and other far-right amendments to all 12 appropriations bills, effectively dooming the prospects of their passage by the Senate.

HRC’s announcement of plans to run the six-figure blitz “across major national outlets, cable networks and digital streaming services” included a 30-second ad titled “Grind to a Halt,” which accuses House Republicans of “trying to limit the health care you and your family can access, ban books and flags, and block enforcement of civil rights laws.”

In a statement, HRC President Kelley Robinson said the conservative lawmakers had “hijacked the appropriations process to attack LGBTQ+ communities rather than doing their jobs,” noting that a shutdown would “interrupt critical government services, hurt working families and endanger our national security.”

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Congress

House GOP sinks their own spending bill, Dems object to anti-LGBTQ riders

Vote was 216-212

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U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of four hardline House Republicans on Thursday joined Democratic colleagues to sink their own spending bill, a $886 billion military appropriations package full of riders from GOP members that include anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ provisions.

The 216-212 vote raised the likelihood of a government shutdown if lawmakers are unable to forge a path forward before the end of September.

“Instead of decreasing the chance of a shutdown, Speaker McCarthy is actually increasing it by wasting time on extremist proposals that cannot become law in the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

His counterpart in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), expressed frustration with his own caucus, characterizing the impasse he has reached with colleagues as “frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate.”

“And then you got all the amendments if you don’t like the bill,” he continued. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down — it doesn’t work.”

A group of 155 House Democrats on Thursday issued a letter objecting to anti-LGBTQ provisions in the bill, the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, addressing the message to U.S. Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The effort was led by Congressional Equality Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and the co-chairs of the Caucus’s Transgender Equality Task Force, U.S. Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Specifically, the letter argues several anti-equality amendments would “actively target LGBTQ+ service members and LGBTQ+ dependents and threaten the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces.”

Among these are riders prohibiting coverage of gender affirming healthcare interventions for service members and their dependents; banning LGBTQ Pride flags, drag shows and other events; and restricting funding for certain books in schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity.

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Congress

Senate confirms federal judge who fought for marriage equality as a lawyer

Three Republicans voted for Rita Lin’s nomination

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Judge Rita Lin (Photo credit: University of California, San Francisco School of Law)

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted 52-45 to confirm Rita Lin’s nomination by President Joe Biden to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The first Chinese American woman to serve in the role, Lin previously fought for marriage equality as an attorney in private practice with the multinational firm Morrison and Foerster.

As co-counsel in a 2012 case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, she secured the first ruling striking down the law, which proscribed marriage as exclusively heterosexual unions, since President Obama announced his administration would no longer defend it.

The Senate’s vote to confirm Lin was supported by all present Democratic members and three Republicans: U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

Last year, during hearings for her nomination in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) objected to an article she wrote in 1998 while a junior at Harvard University calling members of the Christian Coalition “bigots.”

The Christian Coalition was founded by the late Christian media mogul Pat Robertson, who attracted controversy throughout his life and career for making sexist, homophobic and racist remarks.

Lin was appointed as a judge in the San Francisco Superior Court in 2018, and she currently presides over felony and misdemeanor criminal trials. She previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney in San Francisco.

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