Dems Take What They Can Get On ENDA, but Vow to Continue Fight

Colorado’s Congressional delegation split down party lines Wednesday as the U.S. House passed landmark civil rights legislation, protecting gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the workplace. But the bill doesn’t cover transgender people, and that’s a sore spot for LGBT groups and some Democrats.

  After hours of debate the House passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by a vote of 235-185. As promised, Wisconsin Democrat Rep. Tammy Baldwin introduced an amendment to extend workplace discrimination protection to transgender people but pulled it before a vote. Baldwin wanted  it on record that she’d introduced it, but some in her party were concerned a vote on the issue could be used against them by Republicans.

Many LGBT groups, including Colorado Stonewall Democrats, are against a version of ENDA that doesn’t include transgender protection. House Democrats, however, are split on the issue. While many wanted to include it they didn’t think such a bill would pass. Twenty-five Democrats voted against the bill, with many doing so as it left out transgender protection. But others voted for it, saying that although it doesn’t go as far as they would like it’s a step in the right direction.

“I am a proud co-sponsor of the original Employment Non-Discrimination Act that included gender identity,” Colorado Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette said in a statement. “I supported this bill since no one should be discriminated against because of who they are. However, I cast my vote today with deep regret the transgendered community has been denied these protections. While I am committed to extending equality in employment to gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, I will not rest until we also include transgendered Americans.”

All four of Colorado’s Democratic Representatives were co-sponsors of Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank’s original ENDA legislation, which included transgender protection. Democratic Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter said he still supports that version.

“However,” he said in a statement, “I believe the bill we passed today reflects the best and most historic step we could take at this time to provide the same basic federal employment civil rights protections already provided to a person based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.”

The passage of either version of ENDA is viewed to be largely symbolic, since President Bush is expected to veto it.

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