June 22, 2013 at 7:46 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Pelosi talks ENDA at Netroots Nation
Gay News, Washington Blade, HIV/AIDS

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) talked ENDA at Netroots Nation. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) entertained on Saturday the idea of a discharge petition for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — but was skeptical the bill has the votes for passage in the U.S. House.

Pelosi made the remarks in San Jose, Calif., during Netroots Nation, an annual conference for progressive bloggers and activists, when questioned about an ENDA discharge petition by panel moderator and political analyst Zerlina Maxwell.

“We can do discharge, but we don’t have enough votes to pass it,” Pelosi said. “So that means we have to have mobilization outside from some of our Republican friends, who should think that this is a form discrimination that we should be getting rid of. But this is certainly the next order of business for us.”

Initially, Pelosi in her lengthy response talked about the LGBT accomplishments between 2009 and 2010 when Democrats were in control of Congress and the White House, such as passage of hate crimes protections legislation and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

Pelosi said the initial plan was to proceed with ENDA, but the order was changed to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” first before the 111th Congress expired because that was what the “community” wanted.

“The community came to us and they said, ‘We feel more enthusiasm for your doing the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ first — well, second, because we had done hate crimes, now ENDA would be next,” Pelosi said. “They said, no, we wanted ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ And that, because we have to depend on outside mobilization and all the rest, and, of course, all four — that would be hate crimes, that would be ENDA, that would ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ that would be marriage equality — would be the four. We were trying to do them in the order of how we thought we could get them done fastest. We thought ENDA; they thought ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal.”

Pelosi expressed enthusiasm for ENDA, saying it should be “the next order of business for us” and “we’ll do everything we possibly can” to pass the legislation.

However, Pelosi also said “bathrooms” has been an issue for the legislation, although she said that issue could have an easy fix.

“What it comes down to in some of the debate is bathrooms,” Pelosi said. “I’m just telling you honestly what some of the debate is about on that subject because if you have everybody there and ENDA is the law, and you are not discriminating, then who uses what John? Just put a unisex sign on the John and get this thing over with, right? What’s the problem?”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, expressed displeasure with Pelosi’s response, but said it’s a good sign that she didn’t rule out the possibility of a discharge petition.

“Unfortunately, Leader Pelosi launched a long and winding filibuster and avoided making any concrete commitment to lead on our community’s proposed ENDA discharge petition in 2013,” Almeida said. “But she did not rule out this bold strategy either, and we are hopeful she will agree eventually.”

A successful discharge petition would bring ENDA to the House floor regardless of whether Republican leaders like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) or House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) want to keep it from a vote. For a discharge petition to succeed, a majority of House members, or 218, have to sign it.

That’s 42 more names than the current 176 lawmakers who currently sponsor in the House. The last time a discharge petition succeeded was 11 years ago in 2002 for campaign finance reform legislation known as McCain–Feingold in the Senate.

Nonetheless, Almeida was optimistic that a discharge petition would be a strategy that would yield positive results if pursued.

“Just a few months ago, House Democrats launched a discharge petition for the Paycheck Fairness Act, and that’s already gotten around 200 signatures,” Almeida said. “We believe ENDA could get even more signatures on our proposed discharge petition, and we have a small shot at getting to 218. But in order to have a chance to win, the House Democrats have to first be willing to try.”

Freedom to Work promoted the idea of asking Pelosi about the ENDA discharge petition prior to the start of the panel by sending out the proposed question via Twitter using the hastag #AskPelosi. Among those who retweeted the proposal were PFLAG National, the TaskForce and Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign.

As reported by other media outlets, Pelosi was also booed during the same session when she defended the recently revealed data collection policies under the Obama administration at the National Security Agency . The heckler wasn’t concerned about ENDA, but what a called a “secret law.”

Almeida said he’ll continue to pursue a discharge petition because attention will be on the lower chamber of Congress to pass ENDA if the Senate approves the legislation.

“Once we pass ENDA in the Senate this fall, with 60 or more bipartisan votes, the pressure will grow even stronger for House Democrats to launch the discharge petition in 2013,” Almeida said. “We spoke with several House Democrats about this strategy this weekend in San Jose, and I think there will be interest.”

Almeida declined to identify which House Democrats with whom he had spoke and which expressed interest in a discharge petition, but said these lawmakers wanted him to follow up next week.

With the Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 expected next week, Almeida emphasized that LGBT workplace protections and marriage equality are both priorities worth pursuing.

“We will continue this campaign to make 2013 the year for progress not only on the freedom to marry, but also the freedom to work,” Almeida said. “We deserve both freedoms. We deserve full equality under law.”

CORRECTION: An initial version of the article, citing a transcript from the Northwest Pacific Progressive Institute, misquoted and mischaracterized Pelosi’s remarks on ENDA. The Blade regrets the error.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Who exactly is the community Pelosi refers to? No one I know of wanted DADT first…except of course the HRC crowd. Seems it's just same bullshit, different day for Pelosi and, sadly, for those of us who continue to wait for Democratic Party leadership on protecting our equality in the workplace from Obama on down.

    • Yes, when Leader Pelosi kept saying, "Oh, we all wanted to do ENDA after the Hate Crimes Bill, but **they** repeatedly told us that **their** community would much prefer getting rid of DADT first.

    • I don't know why you're expecting the Democrats to lead, either. The 2-party paradigm in US politics needs to be shattered ASAP.

    • "So, we did what **they** wanted…. We always listen to **them** even though our preference after Hate Crimes would have been ENDA!"

      Who is THEY, Madame Leader? Why no antecedent?

      Name THEM, please. Because I stood with you in the room at San Francisco's LGBT Center on Harvey Milk Day in May 2010 when you promised that DADT would be history by Christmas. Then you lost your majority in 2010.

      Did you have a plan for DADT repeal in the "lame duck" session after you lost your Speakership, before the TeaParty took over the House with Boehner at the helm? I don't recall that plan. I recall Barack Obama planning other legislation for that lame duck session, until GETEqual, Dan Choi, and Autumn Sandeen chained themselves to the White House fence.

      Then your lame duck House moved on it. Barack Obama did not want to have Christmas parties with folks being carted off his fence, did he?

      Most importantly, though — who is THEY? For whom did you change your legislative agenda in 2010, abandoning ENDA for DADT repeal? Inquiring minds….

      • I love how people have 20/20 hindsight. Passing DADT before ENDA was the right thing to do. DADT stopped the policy of kicking out gay soldiers from the military. GLBT soldiers can get married now and enjoy support programs. GETEqual’s protest did nothing to get DADT repealed. Any viewer of House of Cards knows that there behind the scene deals being made. DADT actually didn’t have the votes early in the lame duck session.

        If ENDA was a higher priority than DADT, why didn’t the lame GETEqual chain themselves over ENDA?

    • You should have asked her….

      I can tell you the answer to that, it was Barney Frank. He was influenced by HRC. So, what were you saying about the evolution of Emeritus Transphobus?

    • ENDA was shelved because Frank was afraid of the "penis in the shower"

    • So from such a transphobic baseline, any movement is forward movement. But that doesn't mean he's evolved. Nor is he relevant in the area of trans inclusion (and Frankly, no pun intended, was he ever) [NOTE: I edited my comment to more accurately reflect my point I was expression]

    • I talked about this with several people at Netroots last night and we all agreed that "the community" means HRC and this was part of the behind-closed-doors discussion that HRC had with the White House and Democratic leaders, portraying themselves as speaking for the entire community.

  • I don't understand how they are pissed ENDA doesn't have the votes in the House. lol. I do agree they get the side eye for that weak ass excuse about DADT before ENDA.

  • All I know is what I read on the blogs:

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    QOTD: Netroots Nation edition

    by digby

    Barney Frank:

    “Harass us, because we really do pay attention. Look at who’s on the ballot, and vote for the candidate you agree with the most. The next time, you get better choices.”

    He’s talking about primaries there, folks. I’ve heard him say before that incumbents hate them. Too many of them don’t want to have to pay attention to anyone but their rich donors. But when you give them a run for their money it focuses their minds in another direction. Toward voters…

  • When Pelosi refers to "the community," she means the lobbyists from LGBT organizations, and constituent mail, emails, phone calls. Members of Congress react to the communications they receive. Evidently, the message they were receiving at that time was heavily focused on DADT repeal. I doubt that member of Congress would stick their neck out on DADT repeal if all the signals they were getting from "the community" (as defined here) were for passing ENDA. And now, before we rush to push ENDA, we need to make fixes to the bill to take care of the problems created by yesterday's Supreme Court rulings interpreting Title VII. (Yes, even though Title VII doesn't expressly apply to sexual orientation and gender identity claims, the Supreme Court usually interprets statutory language to be consistent, and the language of ENDA is patterned on Title VII in relevant respects.)

  • Whether DADT went before ENDA misses the most important point about politics, and LGBT rights and equality. The reason that our legislative agenda came to an abrupt halt in 2010, is because Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives. If we want our pro-LGBT legislation to move forward again, we must work our butts off to get a Democratic majority back in the House in 2014. With the awful Supreme Court decision today which for now functionally destroys the Voting Rights Act, and the abortion obsessed GOP, there will be many coalitions forming along with LGBT Americans to oust "flat Earth" Republicans in 2014.

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