“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Employment Non-discrimination Act

It’s been a mixed week in the struggle for GLBT civil rights.  While efforts to repeal the controversial military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” barring openly gay individuals from serving in the military gained momentum, the potential of a filibuster might prevent the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  President Obama criticized DADT as unfair and military leaders and the pentagon are in the process of determining the pragmatics and timeframe for repealing the 1993 law that has resulted in the expulsion of gay military personnel whose sexual orientation was exposed by third parties or themselves.

The passage of the Employment Non-discrimination Act is jeopardized by a potential filibuster in the senate.  Rep. Barney Frank is concerned that the inclusion of transgender individuals will decrease the likelihood of ENDA’s passage, which is why Frank, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and the Human Rights Campaign argued to exclude transgender individuals from the bill in the 2007.  But many GLBT civil rights leaders questioned the wisdom and ethicality of passing the bill without transgender protections and argued that employers might use the lack of transgender protections as a loophole to discriminate against effeminate gay men or masculine lesbian women.  After a public outcry by many human rights organizations, gender identity was reintroduced into the bill.  President Obama supports ENDA, unlike former President Bush who threatened to veto it along with GLBT-inclusive hate crime legislation.  Although the Human Rights Campaign is confident that ENDA will pass, it remains uncertain whether the bill in its current form can get the sixty votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

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