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Polis, Miller seek House hearing on ENDA

Lawmakers say chamber should act “in meaningful way” against LGBT workplace discrimination

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Jared Polis, Democratic Party, Colorado, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade, Victory Fund, Congressional LGBT Pride Reception
Jared Polis, Democratic Party, Colorado, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade, Victory Fund, Congressional LGBT Pride Reception

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) seeks a House hearing on ENDA (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

In an attempt to build off the momentum of a successful Senate committee vote, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and the lead House Democrat on workplace issues are calling for a House hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

In an open letter dated July 11, Polis, who’s gay and lead sponsor of ENDA in the U.S. House, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Education & the Workforce Committee, seek a hearing in the Republican-controlled House on ENDA. The letter is addressed to Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.).

“It is time for this committee and this Congress to act in a meaningful way and ensure that LGBT individuals are not denied the right to work and earn a living because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Polis and Miller write.

The letter comes on the heels of a successful vote on ENDA in the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee in which 12 Democrats were joined by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.,) Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in voting in favor of the bill.

Polis and Miller emphasize that a House hearing on ENDA would capitalize on the momentum that the measure enjoys after the committee vote in the Senate.

“The vote sends a strong message that employment decisions should be based on merit and not prejudice,” Polis and Miller write. “The House must seize the moment and stand on the side of fairness and equality by holding a hearing that will kick start the process of moving this important legislation through this body.”

The last time the House held a hearing on ENDA was in 2009. Democrats at the time were in control of the chamber and Miller was chair of the committee, which was then known as the House Education & Labor Committee.

Kline’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment. The Minnesota lawmaker voted against a version of the legislation in 2007 and he spoke out against ENDA during the hearing in 2009.

“H.R. 3017 represents a significant departure from longstanding civil rights law,” Kline said at the time. “It creates an entirely new protected class that is vaguely defined and often subjective.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said Polis and Miller “should be commended” for acting quickly in the aftermath of the Senate committee vote on ENDA.

But in the event that Kline is unresponsive, Almeida invited Polis and Miller to ask Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.,) a committee member with experience on ENDA, to hold a hearing on the legislation in the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee, which Andrews co-chairs.

“The Democrats could set that hearing without Republican approval for September or October, and they could call two or three LGBT victims of workplace discrimination and some pro-LGBT business leaders to testify about how ENDA is good for business,” Almeida said. “I’d love to see the Democrats invite Exxon’s CEO to testify and explain why they refuse to adopt the same LGBT fairness policies that competitors like Chevron have adopted.”

Such a hearing, Almeida said, would lay the foundation for a successful discharge petition on ENDA in the House and a successful Senate floor vote between 60 and 70 votes.

The complete letter from Polis and Miller follows:

July 11, 2013

The Honorable John Kline
Chairman
Committee on Education and the Workforce
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Kline:

We write to respectfully request that you hold a committee hearing as soon as possible on H.R. 1755, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation that would end employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and make clear that Americans in the workplace should be judged on whether they can do the job.

We believe that the strong bipartisan vote by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on June 10in favor of ENDA reflects the overwhelming consensus that LGBT Americans should have the freedom to work and be full participants in our economy.  The vote sends a strong message that employment decisions should be based on merit and not prejudice.  The House must seize the moment and stand on the side of fairness and equality by holding a hearing that will kick start the process of moving this important legislation through this body.

As you may know, H.R. 1755 enjoys bipartisan support in the House and currently has 177 cosponsors. The legislation would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Such protections are already in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.  More than 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies already extend workplace protections based on sexual orientation and more than one-third on the basis of gender identity.

Chairman Kline, business leaders, advocates, and an overwhelming supermajority of Americans – nearly 75 percent – support prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is time for this Committee and this Congress to act in a meaningful way and ensure that LGBT individuals are not denied the right to work and earn a living because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We look forward to working with you on this and many other issues important to our nation.

Sincerely,

GEORGE MILLER
Senior Democratic Member
JARED POLIS
Member of Congress

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Phyllis Nowacki

    July 12, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    It is time for this stand up and fight.

  2. Pass ENDA now.

    July 12, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Vaguely defined like religion?

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World

Italian senators block bill to make anti-LGBTQ violence a hate crime

Advocacy group will hold protests across the country

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(Bigstock photo)

The Italian Senate on Wednesday blocked a bill that would have classified anti-LGBTQ violence as a hate crime in the country.

Senators by a 154-131 vote margin thwarted the measure that would have also classified violence against women and people with disabilities as a hate crime. The Italian Chamber of Deputies previously approved the bill, despite opposition from the Vatican and center-right political parties.

Arcigay, an Italian LGBTQ rights group, has announced it will hold a series of protests across the country on Friday.

“Now is the time for anger,” said Arcigay General Secretary Gabriele Piazzoni in a press release. “Yesterday’s vote will return like a curse on this political class: We will no longer be satisfied.”

ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel also condemned the vote.

“It is sad and extremely worrying to see the Italian Senate saying no to better protection against hate for women, LGBTI people and disabled people,” said Hugendubel in a tweet. “Have you asked yourselves what signal that sends to haters and more importantly to the concerned communities?”

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National

Activists demand ICE release transgender, HIV-positive detainees

Protest took place outside agency’s D.C. headquarters on Wednesday

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Jessycka Ckatallea Letona, an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who spent nearly two years in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, participated in a protest in front of ICE's headquarters in Southwest D.C. on Oct. 27, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Jessycka Ckatallea Letona is an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who fled persecution in her homeland because of her gender identity.

She asked for asylum in the U.S. in 2016 when she entered the country in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Ckatallea on Wednesday told the Washington Blade that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials placed her in a pod with 70 men at a privately-run detention center in Florence, Ariz. She also said personnel at another ICE detention center in Santa Ana, Calif., ridiculed her because of her gender identity and forced her to strip naked before she attended hearings in her asylum case.

Ckatallea spent a year and eight months in ICE custody before her release. She won her asylum case and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It was a very traumatic experience,” said Ckatallea as she spoke with the Blade in front of ICE’s headquarters in Southwest D.C. “I came to a country thinking that it would take care of me, that it would protect me because of my gender identity.”

Ckatallea is one of the more than a dozen immigrant rights activists who participated in a protest in front of ICE’s headquarters that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention campaign organized. Ckatallea, Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron Morris and other protest participants demanded ICE immediately release trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from their custody.

The groups placed on the sidewalk in front of the building a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” to honor three trans women—Victoria Orellano, Roxsana Hernández and Johana “Joa” Medina León—who died in ICE custody or immediately after their release. The “ofrenda” also paid tribute to Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, a Venezuelan man with AIDS who died in ICE custody on Oct. 1.

Immigrant rights activists on Oct. 27, 2021, placed a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Southwest D.C. that honored three transgender women and a man with AIDS who died while in ICE custody or immediately upon their release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ckatallea, Morris and the other protesters approached the building’s entrance and presented security personnel with a petition that calls upon President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately release all transgender people, people living with HIV, and people with medical conditions from ICE custody.”

ICE has repeatedly defended its treatment of trans people and people with HIV/AIDS who are in their custody.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center, the same privately-run facility in which Gotopo was held until his hospitalization. The person with whom the Blade spoke described conditions inside the detention center as “not safe” because personnel were not doing enough to protect them and other detainees from COVID-19.

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is among the dozens of lawmakers who have called for the release of all trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from ICE custody. The Illinois Democrat on Tuesday reiterated this call during a virtual briefing that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention Campaign organized.

“ICE’s clear inability to do better leads me to seek to end of ICE’s detention of all trans migrants,” said Quigley. “During both the Trump and Biden administration I led dozens of my colleagues to demand that ICE release transgender detainees and end its practice of holding trans migrants in custody. We had hoped that things would change with the new administration, so far I’m disappointed.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also participated in the briefing alongside Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford and Sharita Gruberg of the Center for American Progress and others.

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Local

17th Street High Heel Race draws large crowd

D.C. Mayor, three Council members, police chief mingle with drag queens

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34th annual High Heel Race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Close to 1,000 spectators turned out Tuesday night to watch D.C.’s 34th Annual 17th Street High Heel Race in which several dozen men dressed in drag and wearing colorful high heel shoes raced along a three-block stretch of 17th Street near Dupont Circle.

As she has in past years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose office organizes the annual event, gave the official signal for the runners to start the race from a stage at the intersection of 17th and R streets, N.W. 

Joining the mayor on the stage was Japer Bowles, who Bowser recently named as director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which plays the lead role in organizing the High Heel Race. 

Also appearing on stage after being introduced by Bowser were D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2).

Bowser, who along with the three Council members delivered brief remarks before the start of the race, said the event highlights the city’s diversity and resilience coming after over a year of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we want the world to know – that even in a pandemic, even when we had to trim the budget, we stayed focused on how we can make life better for our LGBTQ community,” Bowser told the crowd. “And we’re going to keep on doing it,” she said. “We’re investing in making sure everybody in our community is accepted and safe.”

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, who walked along the three-block section of 17th Street before the race began, was greeted warmly by bystanders, some of whom called out his name to welcome him to what has become the city’s largest Halloween celebration.

“This is a great event,” Contee told the Washington Blade. “I enjoy coming out to be among D.C. residents and all who find our D.C. culture,” he said. “It’s just a great evening, so we’re happy to be out here supporting our community.”

Members of the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit were among the police contingent on duty at the event and overseeing the closing of the streets surrounding 17th Street.

Like past years, many of the race participants and dozens of others dressed in Halloween costumes paraded up and down 17th Street beginning at 6:30 p.m., more than two hours before the start of the race, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.  

However, the mayor this year gave the signal to start the race at about 8:35 p.m. Although a large number of drag runners participated in the race, some who planned to join the race didn’t make it to the starting line in time because they expected the race to begin at 9 p.m. as advertised, according to people in the crowd who knew those who missed the race.

To ensure that everyone had an opportunity to participate, Bowles and others from the mayor’s office agreed to hold a second race about a half hour after the first one. The number of participants in the second race appeared to be about the same as those who joined the first race, indicating many of the drag participants ran twice.

“This is a special treat,” said one bystander. “We got to see two races instead of one.” 

The High Heel Race was cancelled last year due to restrictions related to the COVID pandemic. Many in the crowd watching the race on Tuesday night said they were delighted the city decided to go ahead with the event this year at a time when other large events continue to be canceled or postponed.

Also similar to past years when the High Heel Race took place, the restaurants and bars that line 17th Street were filled on Tuesday night, including the gay bars JR.’s and Windows as well as the longtime LGBTQ-friendly Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse.

Prior to the mayor’s arrival, gay local radio and TV personality Jimmy Alexander of DCW 50 TV served as host to a drag show and costume contest on the stage. DCW 50 also set up and hosted a separate stage on the sidewalk next to JR.’s bar in which race participants and others dressed in costumes were invited to have their pictures taken and provided with copies of the photos of themselves.

“I think it’s amazing,” Bowser told the Blade after the completion of the first race. “It’s good to be back. It was tough missing a year of activities,” she said referring to the business shutdowns brought about by the pandemic. “We had a lot of great, beautiful racers. And so, I’m really excited about it.”

To see more photos from this event, click here.

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