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Hoyer Indicates House of Representatives May Move on ENDA, DADT

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said yesterday that the House will likely consider legislation to establish the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) sometime this year. Hoyer told Congressional Quarterly, that “both of these issues are not new issues, and I frankly think that they’re going to be resolved, and I think the American public is there as well.” He reportedly acknowledged “some controversy” on both issues, but said he doesn’t think there is “nearly as much controversy as there was.” ENDA, sponsored by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), will ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill exempts small businesses with fewer than 15 employees, the military and religious groups. ENDA defines sexual orientation as “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality” and gender identity as “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.” A congressional hearing was held on ENDA in September 2009. DADT was instituted by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 and prohibits the military from inquiring about a service member’s sexual orientation, but also calls for the discharge of anyone who acknowledges being lesbian or gay. Thus far, the policy has led to the expulsion of about 13,000 troops. The Pentagon announced in March 2009 that it will relax enforcement of DADT until Congress acts to repeal the policy. The military no longer investigates service members’ sexual orientation based on anonymous tips, is reducing third party testimony, and now requires high-level review of all expulsions based on sexual orientation. President Obama announced a promise to repeal DADT during his State of the Union Address on January 27. He said, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.” In February, top US military leaders also announced they would conduct a year-long review of DADT during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. In March, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) introduced a bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, in the Senate to repeal the policy. This legislation will be discussed as part of the Annual Defense Authorization Bill by the Senate Armed Services Committee in May.

Sources:

Congressional Quarterly 4/13/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 9/24/09, 3/25/10