Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 Transgender Legislative Agenda

(Washington) Members of Congress began returning to Washington on Monday with two bills that effect the transgender community still in play - the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Whether any of them advance will be up to the will of the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate. The Democratic-led House reconvenes Tuesday. The Senate returns January 22.

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Act

Was named for the 21 year old college student who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998. It would have added sexuality to the list of categories covered under federal hate crime law.

The bill passed the House in May and the White House threatened to veto it. (story ) In an effort to get around a veto the Senate version was tied to the 2008 defense authorization bill.

It passed in September and then went to conference where it was stripped out.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) has pledged to reintroduce the bill before the session ends.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA

Passed the House in November. but without protections for the transgendered.

The legislation would make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring, firing, promoting or paying an employee.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) has indicated he wants to introduce a Senate version before the session ends but it is unlikely it would come to a final vote before the session ends in the fall. The White House also has indicated the President would veto ENDA if it is passed.

Both bills could be pushed aside as Democrats struggle to deal with a sinking economy, the Irag war and election-year politics.

"I'm deeply saddened by the fact the "T" was left out of this bill. I feel we need to do everything in our power to force the ENDA bill to fail as long as the "T" is left out. This is our once in a lifetime chance to get this important piece of legislation passed. If we don't get it right we may never have a chance like this for a very long time to come and may never see it in our lifetime. I'm very disgusted in what the HRC has done to us here. I feel we need to actively block every bill going forward that has the "T" left out." Lynn