Connect with us


Advocates see momentum for ENDA, other bills

Anti-bullying measure, marriage-related bills also on tap



Rea Carey, NGLTF, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, immigration reform, gay news, Washington Blade
Rea Carey, NGLTF, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, immigration reform, gay news, Washington Blade

Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said she wants action on comprehensive immigration reform.  (Photo by Kathy Plate)

As lawmakers return from August recess, advocates are anticipating movement on pro-LGBT legislation in the Senate during the upcoming weeks, although the Employment Non-Discrimination Act appears to have the most momentum.

The long-pursued legislation to bar anti-LGBT job bias passed out of committee in July on a bipartisan basis and supporters of the bill are expecting a vote sometime this fall.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said ENDA is the legislative focus for the organization as well as for the multi-group Americans for Workplace Opportunity campaign it formed after the panel vote.

“Obviously the congressional calendar has many agenda items but we fully expect to see a Senate vote on ENDA in the fall and we’re working with our partners in the Americans for Workplace Opportunity campaign to build support for this critical bill,” Cole-Schwartz said.

But when ENDA will come up in the Senate this fall remains unclear. The office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), hasn’t responded to multiple requests from the Blade to comment on the timing for an ENDA floor vote since the bill was reported out of committee. Reid has previously pledged in a Pride statement this year to bring up the legislation “soon.”

Allison Preiss, spokesperson for the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, echoed remarks from HRC by saying panel Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is hoping a vote would take place this fall, but wasn’t more specific.

“Chairman Harkin is also optimistic that this fall, the Senate will consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the HELP Committee on a bipartisan basis and includes for the first time protections against discrimination based not only on sexual orientation but on gender identity as well,” Preiss said.

Christian Berle, legislative director for Freedom to Work, said the time has come for a Senate floor vote on ENDA because the organization believes that sufficient lobbying has occurred to reach the 60-vote threshold required to overcome a filibuster.

“Based on Freedom to Work’s outreach to Senate Republicans since ENDA passed out of the HELP Committee, we are confident that we have the 60 votes necessary to advance and pass this critical legislation,” Berle said. “It is now time for Senator Reid to keep his six-and-a-half year old commitment to bring ENDA to the floor of the Senate as soon as possible.”

Moreover, Berle said holding the Senate vote on ENDA as soon as possible is necessary to generate momentum to move the legislation in the Republican-controlled House, where passage of ENDA will be challenging to say the least. Two options that have been floated are attaching ENDA to a larger vehicle bill or a discharge petition.

“The sooner we pass ENDA out of the Senate, the sooner we can begin a robust campaign to get ENDA through the House of Representatives and on the president’s desk,” Berle said. “Whether we attach ENDA to a spending bill in the Senate or launch a discharge petition in the House, we know that we can only win on ENDA if we are willing to try.”

But ENDA isn’t the only piece of pro-LGBT legislation that is pending on the Senate calendar for a vote. The Senate HELP Committee has also reported out education reform legislation known as the Strengthening America’s Schools Act that includes anti-bullying measures known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.

Shawn Gaylord, director of public policy for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, also said he’s expecting a vote on this legislation in the Senate in the fall.

“GLSEN anticipates ESEA reauthorization to gain momentum in mid to late fall, and our continued efforts to build bipartisan support in both chambers will ensure this LGBT-inclusive bill to be strongly positioned to move forward,” Gaylord said.

Preiss maintained that Harkin is committed to working for passage of the bill, which would reauthorize the Elementary & Secondary Education Act, as she touted the LGBT provisions in the bill.

“Chairman Harkin is committed to working with leadership on a path forward to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Committee-passed version of which contains a number of important anti-bullying provisions,” Preiss said.

Another LGBT-relevant bill that has been reported out of the committee is the Charlie Morgan Act, which would ensure veterans in same-sex marriages have access to certain spousal benefits.

It’s unclear if this legislation is still necessary now that the Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and the Obama administration has said it would no longer enforce Title 38, which had barred gay veterans from receiving these benefits. Jeff Frank, a spokesperson for the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said he doesn’t have any predictions about the bill.

Also on the docket is the fiscal year 2014 financial services appropriations bill. That legislation contains a provision inserted by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) that would prohibit LGBT discrimination in the juror selection process for federal courts.

Reid’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on when — if it all — these pro-LGBT measures would come up for a Senate floor vote.

Many other bills related to the federal government’s recognition of same-sex unions are also pending even in the wake of the Supreme Court decision against DOMA, although none besides the Charlie Morgan Act have yet to be approved by committee.

The most prominent among them is the Respect for Marriage Act, which was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and would fully repeal DOMA. Advocates say that legislation to ensure married so gay couples can reap federal benefits of marriage that are still in question if they marry in one jurisdiction and move to a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. Among these benefits are Social Security benefits and veterans benefits.

A Senate Judiciary Committee aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has plans for action on the legislation in committee this fall.

“Chairman Leahy is committed to a full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is why he is working with Sen. Feinstein on the Respect for Marriage Act,” the aide said. “We are in the process of pushing for quick implementation of the Windsor decision, and look forward to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill later this fall. After the hearing, the Chairman will consider moving legislation through the committee.”

Other pending pro-LGBT legislation before the Senate that hasn’t seen committee action is the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act, which is sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and would bar discrimination against LGBT people in housing programs. Another bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) known as the Tax Parity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act would ensure gay couples in civil unions won’t be taxed on employer-provided health benefits.

Even if these bills pass the Senate, it remains to be seen whether they  can muster enough support to pass in the Republican-controlled House. But it’s not unprecedented. Earlier this year, under significant pressure from women’s advocates and other groups, the House passed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act with protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence.

Bills in the House that currently lack Senate companions are the Social Security Equity Act, which would allow Social Security benefits to flow to gay couples; post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation known as the Restore Honor to Service Members Act; and a bill to help LGBT homeless youth known as the Runaway & Homeless Youth Act. Another version of the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act is expected to be introduced imminently by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, said while issues like Syria may dominate the discussions among lawmakers in the coming weeks, she still expects them to advance legislation to help LGBT people and other social justice causes.

“While the situation in Syria is understandably front and center for Congress — especially as putting our brave service members, including LGBT service members, in harm’s way is being considered — members of Congress must also simultaneously focus on vitally important domestic issues as they return from recess,” Carey said. “These include job and economic security issues such as the urgent passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and freedom and justice issues such as comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform.”



Elon Musk pledges to lobby for criminalizing healthcare interventions for transgender youth

Twitter executive estranged from trans child



Elon Musk (Photo via Bigstock)

Elon Musk started Pride month with a series of transphobic tweets that constitute his most extreme attacks against the community to date and included a pledge on Thursday that he will be “actively lobbying to criminalize” healthcare interventions for transgender youth.

Also on Thursday, Musk responded “totally agree” to a tweet from a trans-exclusionary LGB account that said, “LGB don’t even want Pride month anymore. We just want to be separated from the TQ+.”

And then on Friday, the Twitter owner intervened on behalf of anti-trans pundit Matt Walsh when the platform took steps to limit the reach of his “documentary” attacking the community, and then he re-tweeted Walsh’s video.

The New Republic named Walsh “Transphobe of the Year” in 2022, noting that he stood out in a crowded field of hate purveyors, having “raised his profile by spreading grotesque conspiracy theories about grooming” and pedophilia in the LGBTQ community.”

Responding to Musk’s promise to fight for the criminalization of gender affirming care, anti-trans conservative media commentator and University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson tweeted, “Prison. Long term. Without Parole. No Mercy. And maybe for the compliant ‘therapists’ and the butchers they enable.” Musk replied, “Absolutely.”

Medical societies that develop and publish clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minor patients do not generally recommend genital surgeries before the age of 18.

Access to the interventions proscribed in these guidelines, which are supported by every mainstream scientific and medical body, have been shown to dramatically reduce rates of depression, suicidal ideation and suicides among trans youth. Studies show rates of post-treatment regret are exceedingly rare.

Musk has long been known as an online provocateur, often taking aim at institutions like Hollywood, big business and the mainstream news media that he believes promote a left-leaning agenda without providing room for dissenting voices.

However, the tech billionaire has increasingly aligned himself with more extreme right-wing politics and conservative political figures like Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who launched his 2024 presidential campaign last week with a Twitter Spaces discussion hosted by Musk just days after signing some of the most extreme anti-trans laws of any state in the country.

Likewise with his public statements concerning the trans community. A few years ago, Musk courted controversy for mocking and complaining about the practice of calling trans and nonbinary people by their preferred pronouns. This week’s anti-trans tirade was markedly more extreme.

Last year, Insider noted Musk’s comments about gender pronouns in its coverage of a Reuters report that the South African-born entrepreneur’s 18-year-old trans daughter had filed papers in a California court to legally change her first and last name and request a new birth certificate.

Per Reuters, the teen said that she no longer wished to be “related to my biological father in any way, shape or form.”

A month later, the elder Musk publicly declared his support for the Republican Party. In an interview with the Financial Times, he said the reason for his estrangement from his daughter was “full on communism” in elite colleges and universities.

Continue Reading


White House sends Sean Patrick Maloney’s OECD nomination to the Senate

Former N.Y. congressman narrowly lost re-election in 2022



Former U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The White House on Thursday officially announced the nomination of former Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York to serve as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s U.S. representative with the rank of ambassador.

Since February 2022, former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has represented the U.S. before the OECD, an intergovernmental body with 38 member countries founded to promote economic progress and stimulate world trade.

Along with Maloney’s nomination to replace him, Markell’s nomination last month to serve as ambassador to Italy is now pending before the Senate.

New York’s first openly gay member of Congress, Maloney finished his fifth term as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Party’s sixth highest-ranking position in the House, before narrowly losing his bid for reelection in 2022.

Maloney was credited with helping to secure the Democrats’ better-than-expected performance in the midterm elections but lost his own race by just 1,800 votes after New York’s 17th Congressional District was redrawn.

Continue Reading


EXCLUSIVE: Outgoing Rep. Cicilline on future of LGBTQ rights and life after Congress

Gay congressman departs office this week; led major LGBTQ legislative victories



Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Speaking with the Washington Blade by phone on Tuesday from Rhode Island, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) was optimistic about the outcome of the debt ceiling negotiations that have roiled Capitol Hill, the White House, and Wall Street for weeks.

“My sense of it is there are enough Democratic and Republican votes to get it to the president’s desk,” said the congressman, who would fly back to Washington in the evening with the expectation that a vote would be held the following day.  

Even amid the chaos and back-and-forth travel this week, Cicilline was ready to look back on the landmark legislative accomplishments of his distinguished career in politics, which have included groundbreaking advancements for LGBTQ rights.

And despite the ascendancy of anti-LGBTQ attacks from the right, including from much of the Republican caucus, he told the Blade there is ample reason to be optimistic that the chamber’s pro-equality work will continue in his absence.

As announced back in February and effective on Thursday, Cicilline will retire from Congress to lead his state’s largest philanthropic organization, the Rhode Island Foundation, having represented its 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House since 2011.

A former attorney, Cicilline was tapped to lead the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism.

Particularly in recent years, the congressman became one of the most powerful House Democrats, elected to leadership in 2017 as a co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and picked in 2021 by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to serve as one of the nine members tasked with managing the House’s second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

Among other legislative achievements, Cicilline is widely credited with leading the House’s passage, twice, of the biggest civil rights bill since the 1964 Civil Rights Act – the Equality Act, which would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in areas from education and housing to employment and public accommodations.

While the Senate failed to pass the Equality Act, Cicilline said, “I’m handing that work off to [U.S. Rep.] Mark Takano [D-Calif.], who I know will take it over the finish line” once Democrats win control of the House again.

The congressman told the Blade that he hopes his leadership on this bill will be remembered as a key part of his legacy – and was adamant that its passage through both chambers is now a question of “when” rather than “if.”

“The majority of Americans support the Equality Act, and a majority of voters in every single state support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people,” so “this is about the Republican conference in Congress catching up with the American people,” Cicilline said.

Congress is beginning to look more like America in at least one respect, though. After his first election to the House, Cicilline was one of only three openly LGBTQ members serving in Congress (having already made history in 2003 as the first openly gay mayor of a state capital, Providence, R.I.).

Today, “I’m leaving with 10 colleagues in the House and two in the Senate,” he said, “so that’s great progress.”

“The calvary has arrived” with “young new members who are going to lead the next wave of this fight” such as openly LGBTQ U.S. Reps. Robert Garcia (Calif.), Becca Balint (Vt.), Eric Sorensen (Ill.), and Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), Cicilline said.

Echoing comments from his final speech on the House floor last week, the congressman also expressed his faith and confidence in party leaders with whom he has worked closely, including Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)

Hopes and expectations for the current Democratic conference’s ability to deliver on behalf of LGBTQ Americans were buttressed late last year by passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation co-led by Cicilline that codified fundamental rights for same-sex couples that might otherwise be erased if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or weakens its constitutional protections for marriage equality.

How to combat the rightwing crusade against LGBTQ and especially trans Americans

However prepared Cicilline believes his colleagues are to meet the moment, the congressman is also up to speed on the unprecedented challenges presented by the current political climate with respect to LGBTQ rights.

This year, state legislatures have introduced hundreds of bills targeting trans Americans, which endeavor to restrict their access to everything from lifesaving healthcare to public bathrooms. At the same time, anti-trans rhetoric has escalated to such an extent that a rightwing pundit speaking at CPAC said “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely,” which some interpreted as a call for genocide against the community.

Legislatively, Cicilline said it is all part of a cynical political strategy adopted by Republicans. Having concluded that their crusade against same-sex marriage was no longer winnable, the party sought another way to fight against LGBTQ rights, eventually polling anti-trans positions and messaging that successfully motivates “the most extreme parts of their political base,” he said.

“Our Republican colleagues have weaponized the trans community in such a way that they think it’s politically advantageous to attack even trans kids,” which is “really horrific” especially considering the potential for tragic real-world consequences, including targeted violence against the trans community, Cicilline said.

“I hope people who are seeking public office will be conscious of that and will be responsible, but unfortunately, I think there are some who are so driven by their desire for power, that they’re prepared to do almost anything to get there,” the congressman added.

Some conservatives hope their polarization of and fear mongering about trans issues will drive a wedge, providing sufficient incentive or a permission structure for LGB Americans to turn their backs on the trans community, Cicilline said, but “That’s not gonna happen.”

“We are standing in lockstep with our trans brothers and sisters, and we’re just not going to allow them to be attacked in this way,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Cicilline said elected Democrats must “stand up for the queer community, speak out, condemn this kind of [anti-LGBTQ/anti-trans] legislation, and let the American people see the contrast” between the Democratic Party, which “stands for inclusion and has fought for LGBTQ+ equality” and the GOP, which is pushing “these very toxic and dangerous and un-American attacks on the LGBTQ community.”

The congressman noted that working against the interests of LGBTQ Americans is nothing new for congressional Republicans. “With just a couple of exceptions,” he said, the House GOP caucus voted against the Equality Act’s nondiscrimination protections, which stem directly from America’s most basic foundational values of fairness and equality.

“So that means I have colleagues in the Congress of the United States on the Republican side who fundamentally rejected the legislation that would grant me and others in my community full equality as citizens of this country, [colleagues who would] allow discrimination to continue against our community,” Cicilline said.

When it comes to navigating interpersonal working relationships with anti-LGBTQ Republicans in the chamber, though, “I frankly don’t really care how they feel about us,” the congressman said. “That’s irrelevant to me.”  

Cicilline to continue advocating for LGBTQ Americans after Congress

In addition to the Equality Act, Cicilline said that if Democrats recapture control of the House, he expects to see renewed momentum for a bill that he authored, the Global Respect Act, and another for which he was an original cosponsor, the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act. Both were passed by the House but not by the Senate and therefore remain “unfinished business,” he said.

The Global Respect Act, Cicilline said, “will allow the U.S. to impose visa sanctions on anyone who commits gross human rights violations against the LGBTQ community,” while the latter bill would mandate that federal surveys must include data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Other legislative efforts that Cicilline has led, in areas from antitrust to foreign policy to gun violence, also include some “unfinished business” – bills that might see movement in the next Congress that carry the potential, in many cases, to measurably impact the lives of all Americans.

For instance, Cicilline, who has been at the vanguard of Congress’s work modernizing and strengthening antitrust law, remains hopeful about the eventual passage of six bills that he introduced in 2021, all designed to increase competition in digital markets.

These would curb the monopolistic power of dominant tech platform companies whose business models center engagement as the primary mechanism to drive advertising revenue – even though, as these firms are aware, content that tends to earn more engagement tends to be that which is incendiary, offensive, hateful, false, or misleading, violent or otherwise outrageous.

Looking beyond Congress, Cicilline said he is eager to continue advancing “equality and justice for our community” at the Rhode Island Foundation, building upon the organization’s existing work “supporting the organizations that are doing really important work to support the LGBTQ community.”

Cicilline acknowledged that leading an “explicitly non-partisan organization” will be a departure from his work in Washington – though perhaps not to the extent one might imagine.

“You know, our community remains, in this country, a marginalized community,” the congressman said. “In fact, it’s the only community, still, in America, that it’s legal to discriminate against.”

At this point, rather than pivoting back to discussing the need for passage of the Equality Act, Cicilline instead explained that because of the lack of national nondiscrimination protections, he is even more eager to include the LGBTQ community in the foundation’s work advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade