Nancy Pelosi is wrong about ENDA

This weekend at the Netroots Nation blog/progressive Netroots conference, once- and future- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA – a law banning job discrimination against gay and trans people) – somehow fell victim to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Don’t believe it.

First, what Pelosi said, then a little look back at the history. From Chris Johnson at the Blade:

“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.”

Well, not exactly.

Granted, we’ll never know what was discussed privately by then-Speaker Pelosi and “the community” (aka HRC), but we can certainly check the record and see what was happening publicly.  And publicly, neither DADT nor ENDA were going anywhere, fast.  In fact, a number of us were leading the jeering squad going after the President for dragging his feet on DADT, ENDA, and DOMA (remember, the administration was  still defending DOMA at the time, and using Bush administration legal briefs to do it).  So it really wasn’t an either-or situation.  It was more like a neither-nor.

Joe Sudbay sent me a nifty little timeline that GetEqual has on their site, detailing the history of DOMA from the beginning, but in particularly since 2009.  And what you see in that history is lots and lots of promises of upcoming House mark-ups, and then no mark-ups.  (The mark-up is when a House committee  votes on a proposed bill, and then if it makes it “out of committee,” it gets sent to the full House to be voted on.  It’s a lot more complicated than that, especially in the House, but that’s close enough.)

Let me share you some examples of that ever-delayed mark-up of ENDA in the House, and the larger “it’s coming really really soon” promises we kept getting. DADT had nothing to do with this for a good year of unexplained delays:

ENDA mark-up or full passage in 2009

May 18, 2009 — DNC Treasurer and chief gay fundraiser chastises the LGBT community for being impatient, saying, “If we get hate crimes this Summer or Fall (2009) and ENDA this Fall or Winter (2009), lets not spend too much of our energy angry that we didn’t get them this past Spring (2009).”

November 10, 2009 — Rep. Barney Frank says ENDA is “in very good shape,” would be marked up before year’s end, and voted on in the House “in December or in February, with the Senate voting in the Spring.”

November 10, 2009 — HRC lobbyist says she “remains hopeful that a House vote on ENDA could take place before year’s end.

November 16, 2009 — White House LGBT liaison says “were working on ENDA” and “you’re going to see markup in the House next week on ENDA.

November 16, 2009 — House Education and Labor Committee announces markup on ENDA is postponed indefinitely and Hill staffer claims it will be “rescheduled after the Thanksgiving holiday.”

November 17, 2009 — It is reported that the House Committee vote was postponed “so that lawyers could adjust the legal language regarding issues of disparate impact, double recovery and attorneys fee.” HRC lobbyist says “our understanding is that the committee lawyers wanted a few more days to look at several of the outstanding issues” and “hopefully we’ll be able to see a markup after Thanksgiving and before the end of the year.” Rep. Barney Frank suggests that a full House vote “might not take place until February of next year.”

November 18, 2009 — Another House Committee markup is postponed.

Oops, we’ll pass ENDA in 2010

December 4, 2009 — HRC learns that ENDA will not be considered by the House this year and says “delays are absolutely unacceptable” and “calls for an end to further delays.”

January 5, 2010 — Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Tammy Baldwin blame the delay of ENDA on the healthcare reform debate and say “later this month the legislation will undergo markup” and added that they both had “spoken with Speaker Pelosi and Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller and were confident that the bill would receive a vote.”

March 23, 2010 — Rep. Barney Frank says he told House Education and Labor Committee Chair George Miller “now, its our turn” since healthcare reform had passed and then says that a vote on ENDA “may not come this week” afterall, but he “expects a votes as soon as the come back” from recess on April 9.

March 30, 2010 — Rep. Jared Polis says “we have the votes to pass ENDA in the house and we hope to bring it before the committee I serve on within the month—by the end of April” and added that “once it passes the committee, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks-a week or two-to schedule it to the floor.

April 13, 2010 — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says that the House will likely take up ENDA this year and that, even though it includes gender identity, it is less controversial now than it has been in the past.

April 15, 2010 — Speaker Nancy Pelosi says “The committee of jurisdiction, the Education & Labor Committee is working very hard to have the strongest possible bill and vote when we come to the floor. I believe that it will be soon, and as soon as they are ready, Leader Hoyer and I agreed that it will come to the floor. So, I think it will be pretty soon.”

April 18, 2010 — Rep. Barney Frank says legislation aimed at ending employment discrimination against LGBT people will be marked up in committee “this week or next” and then added that “the speaker has promised that we will get this done fairly quickly.”

April 28, 2010 — Two weeks after another missed vote promised by Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Tammy Baldwin put her ”goal” for the timeline at ”the next couple weeks.”

April 30, 2010 — A spokesperson for Chairman George Miller says ”we haven’t scheduled it yet,” but added ”he intends to get to it very shortly” when asked about ENDA.

May 17, 2010 — Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a conference call with community leaders and went through the legislative calendar to explain that taking a vote on ENDA and DADT in the same week was literally impossible from a scheduling point of view. However, Pelosi also said “it’s not one or the other” and “I have no intention of losing on either of these.”

That last point is important, and it seems to contradict what Cong. Pelosi is claiming now.  Then she said it was not one or the other.  Now she’s saying it was.

The first mention of DADT “interfering” with moving forward on ENDA came in May of 2010, five months after we were promised the bill would be already done.

May 21, 2010 — Rep. Barney Frank says that ENDA will be delayed until late June or mid-July because of the planned upcoming vote on the compromise repeal of DADT.

At this point, who knows what to believe.  Clearly “something” was holding up ENDA in the House for a good year, and no one wanted to tell us what.  The DADT excuse only came up in May.  And even then, Speaker Pelosi denied that the House was in a situation of only passing DADT repeal or ENDA.  So what was the excuse for all the Charlie-Brown-football mark-ups that kept being promised and never happened?

At this point, mid-year of 2010, everything was falling apart.  Democrats were increasingly concerned about losing control of the House of Representatives, and ENDA, which wasn’t going anywhere anyway, started going there even more slowly.

If anything, movement on DADT ended up being the latest and greatest excuse for not doing anything on ENDA.  But it wasn’t the cause of the problem.  Clearly something was stopping the House committee from even marking ENDA up, and they never admitted what it was.  And still won’t.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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26 Responses to “Nancy Pelosi is wrong about ENDA”

  1. FunMe says:

    Ugh! “That woman” gets on my nerve. What a phony. My distrust of her started when she stated that “impeachment is off the table” after bush left opened. That really opened my eyes to what a fake she is. She is SO part of the problem we are facing with our politicians who have been traitors to our US Constitution and the oath to help “We The People”.

    I was out-of-town this weekend, but I hear she was booed when she defended NSA illegal spying of American citizens. Good!

    Now she is lying about ENDA. Gosh, she needs to be booted out of OUR government. I’m so sick of her!

  2. Chuck Morse says:

    Barney Frank and the Law of Unintended Consequences: How the Frank Amendment Helped Terrorists get Legal Visas by Chuck Morse

  3. Thom Allen says:

    Sometimes we just get thrown under the bus by reflex. I think many of the Dems have been doing it for years. As in, “We need to get the conservatives on board with this bill. Dump the LGBTQ section and the bill will be more palatable to them.” Or, “If we get DADT and DOMA repealed then get ENDA through, the Repubs will be so pissed they’ll stall on everything else that we want.” So when the Republicans are on the warpath, LGBTQ issues get sacrificed as they did in the immigration bill.

  4. zorbear says:

    You mean like the Repugs constantly repealing Obamacare? No way would our elected rep’s do something like that!

  5. BeccaM says:

    Okay… did some digging, and fortunately was guided somewhat by my own memory. It was my recollection that the House did have the votes to pass ENDA.

    It was House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) who, without explaining why, removed it from the mark-up calendar. However, one of the reasons cited for giving up was the fact the Senate couldn’t secure the filibuster-proof 60 votes to move on the measure, so essentially the Dems all threw up their hands and said, “Oh well, it’s not that important anyway.”

    Part of what was mentioned is that the PPACA was sucking up all of the available political capital.

    Anyway, this story here is rather educational:

  6. Mrsexamme1965 says:

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт…­ ­ViewMore——————————————&#46qr&#46net/kkEj

    Actually, it was Joe Lieberman who drove the DADT repeal in the Senate, insisting it be put on the lame-duck calendar.

  7. BeccaM says:

    I’ve been noticing activity on the Senate side that amounts to just about the same thing — and have concluded that especially when Congress is split between the parties, this is exactly what they want to do.

    Now it’s House GOP and Senate Dems fighting to pass bills they know have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing the opposite chamber, probably because deep down, they don’t actually want the measures to go anywhere. It’s all for show.

    My latest reflexive surge of cynicism came when Sen. Gillibrand talked about reintroducing ENDA in the Senate. I mean, seriously — why bother, unless the entire exercise is merely to serve as a vehicle for campaign fundraising?

  8. Sweetie says:

    Pelosi is a liar like the rest:

    “It is clear we must enter an era of austerity.”

    “I support the public option.” (Funny how the Dems chose to whip against it after watering it down to practically nothing.)

  9. Naja pallida says:

    Sadly, she was an Obot even before such a thing could have existed. When she had control of the House under George W. Bush, it was the exact same sort of thing. Make people believe you’re on their side by putting forth legislation you know won’t ever see the light of day, and then quash stuff that you could fight for and actually pass.

    Regardless, I can’t ever forgive her for not pursuing hearings and investigations into known illegal actions by the Bush administration. Which leaves me with only one conclusion, she was in on it.

  10. karmanot says:

    The National AIDS Park in Golden Gate, but she hasn’t done diddly since.

  11. karmanot says:

    Thank you. You nailed Pelosi, who has been working against us for years under the guise of compromise and ‘what’s possible.’ She is the ultimate Obot.

  12. I almost died when I went it through it and saw all the “coming in just a few weeks!”

  13. I mean this entirely sincerely, but what do you mean by a Q?

  14. BeccaM says:

    Pelosi isn’t just wrong about the history of ENDA’s failure to pass the House, she’s being disingenuous at best. Some like myself might characterize her as a liar on this.

    The way I see it, the Dems wanted to be perceived as being pro-LGBT rights, but by only doing the minimum necessary to maintain that perception. (Ideally, nothing at all — which, after the passage of the pointlessly unused hate crimes bill — was the status quo until GetEQUAL and the other pro-gay groups managed to undo the massive deck-stacking against the DADT repeal.)

    The only reason ENDA (H.R. 3017 in the 111th session) was because Pelosi and the Democratic leadership let it die there. At the time, the bill had 203 co-sponsors, just 15 short of majority passage. One thing I’m going to do as soon as I get some time is to see just who were the relevant committee chairs in the 111th and why they may have blocked the write-up.

  15. BeccaM says:

    Actually, it was Joe Lieberman who drove the DADT repeal in the Senate, insisting it be put on the lame-duck calendar.

  16. BeccaM says:


    I’d also add that throughout the latter part of the last decade, the Dems were increasingly panicked by the prospect of being called to task for having the means to do something about all those LGBT promises they’d been making, but choosing not to do so. Let’s not forget: This was the same party that passed, with overwhelming majorities, DADT and DOMA in the first place in the 90s.

  17. Naja pallida says:

    Maybe I’m just thinking about it too straight forward, but it seems to me that they could have done ENDA and DADT in the same bill… seeing that one is about stopping workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the other was institutionalized discrimination based on sexual orientation. Passage of ENDA in itself would have conflicted directly with DADT as a law, thus necessitating it’s repeal anyway. Pelosi was always quite happy to push hard for stuff in the House when it had no chance of ever seeing the light of day in the Senate, but as soon as it comes to things that matter, she’s suddenly concerned about how difficult a lift it would be, and matters of parliamentary procedure. Calling her a liar is being too kind. There is a distinct difference between someone who just doesn’t tell the truth, and someone who is actively working against you.

  18. Naja pallida says:

    Combine that with the simple fact that most people can’t afford to fight a wrongful termination suit, because they have to immediately start looking for a new job. We’re in an employer’s market. They have all the power. The workers have none.

  19. nicho says:

    Is there anything Pelousy hasn’t been wrong about?

  20. nicho says:

    Any employer can find a reason to fire you. Actually, all they have to do is say they’re eliminating your job. That’s how I got canned. They retitled the job and found a younger person to do it at half the pay. Failing that, they can find a reason to fire you for cause. It’s not that hard.

  21. J in K says:

    So they’ve gone from scapegoating trans people to lying about the fact that most of the direct action protests from 2009 and 2010 were simultaneously pushing for passage of ENDA and DADT repeal. Classy.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the real obstacle is large “gay friendly” corporations that are terrified of the increased legal liability. After witnessing a bunch of HRC approved corporations team up with bigots to strip away LGBT workplace protections in Tennessee a few years ago, it’s hard for me to reach any other conclusion. The Democratic party has thrown us under the bus to appease their corporate masters and they are desperate to shift the blame.

  22. Randy says:

    Federal law trumps any state law. In Right to Work states, you can indeed fire any person, but you cannot do so if your reason is to discriminate based on religion, sex, or race. ENDA would merely add sexual orientation to that mix, and would indeed protect us across the country.

  23. Jdrs says:

    My question to the gay community is why he focus on ENDA when most states are “right to work” where you can be fired for virtually any reason they see fit. Especially when most businesses have their own antigay legislation in place. Shouldn’t gays team up with labor to end these get more sweeping worker protections? I see ENDA as important so much as it’s a symbolic victory than an actual legislative achievement. It is based on outmodeled forms of gender ideas, leaving Q’s in paricular in the cold (not to mention the plethera of religious exemptions). It doesn’t meant it shouldn’t pass, but is rather the energy be focused on states. And when I say the gay community I mean HRC et al as some lgbt writers I read agree. Example:

  24. Bill_Perdue says:

    Very informative timeline. Thanks for posting it, John.

  25. Bill_Perdue says:

    Nancy Pelosi is wrong about most political.questions. That’s because she’s a Democrat and or Republican,

  26. Houndentenor says:

    DADT repeal only passed because Sen Collins (R-Maine) made a big deal of it in the last days of the last Congress with Democratic majorities in both houses. Democrats can take credit for providing most of the votes needed to pass the bill, but Pelosi certainly didn’t put in much effort getting it to the floor. She was a sorry excuse for a Speaker. She wasted the majority and now we don’t have it and probably won’t get it back until the districts in many states can be un-gerrymandered so that they no longer favor the GOP. That means 2022 at the earliest. The failure of ENDA and DOMA repeal to pass falls squarely on Pelosi on Reid, both of whom should be fired for incompetence.

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