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Boehner celebrates Civil Rights Act, but won’t bring up ENDA

John Boehner, ENDA, United States House of Representatives, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

House Speaker John Boehner won’t bring up ENDA (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key).

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) affirmed on Tuesday the importance of non-discrimination protections during a Capitol Hill event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, even though he has refused to bring up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for a vote.

Boehner was among the congressional leaders who attended the event, which took place in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, as they posthumously awarded Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The Civil Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964.

“On July 2, 1964, Congress completed what may be the most fundamental, most consequential legislation of our long history,” Boehner said. “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes that every citizen has the right to pursue happiness without discrimination, or segregation, on the grounds of race, color, religion or national origin.”

Boehner’s praise for the Civil RIghts Act of 1964, which bars discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, stands in sharp contrast to his refusal to bring up ENDA, which would bar employers from discriminating against LGBT workers, and his personal opposition to the legislation.

“I am opposed to discrimination of any kind, in the workplace and anyplace else,” Boehner said in November. “But I think this legislation that I’ve dealt with as chairman of The Education & The Workforce Committee long before I was back in the leadership is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits. People are already protected in the workplace. I’m opposed to continuing this. Listen, I understand people have differing opinions on this issue, and I respect those opinions. But as someone who’s worked in the employment law area for all my years in the State House and all my years here, I see no basis or no need for this legislation.”

Boehner’s argument against ENDA is similar to what opponents of civil rights legislation such as the Civil Rights Act have said in the past — and his points have been rejected by LGBT advocates as inaccurate.

Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesperson, said in response to an inquiry about why Boehner would celebrate passage of the Civil Rights Act, but not bring up ENDA for vote, “I think the Speaker’s position on that legislation is clear.”

ENDA passed late last year in the Senate on a bipartisan basis, but remains pending in the House despite the growth of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors. ENDA supporters say the votes are present for passage in the U.S. House, which is all that needs to happen before President Obama can sign the legislation.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, said Boehner should put his money where his mouth is if he believes the Civil Rights Act is an important piece of legislation.

“Civil and human rights must be measured by a single yardstick,” Henderson said. “Speaker Boehner should be applauded for extolling the virtues of the Civil Rights Act, but that acknowledgement comes with a responsibility to ensure that no worker is denied employment protections and that no citizen is denied the right to vote. Speaker Boehner’s words will be empty should he continue to be a roadblock to passage of ENDA, immigration reform, and the Voting Rights Amendment Act.”

Also speaking at the event in favor of the Civil Rights Act was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who’s facing a tough challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergran Grimes in his re-election bid this fall. Despite his support for the Civil Rights Act, McConnell was among the Republicans who voted “no” on ENDA when it came up for a vote in the Senate last year.

Democrats who spoke during the event were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge (D-Calif.). A main theme among the Democrats was bringing up the Voting Rights Amendment of 2014 for a vote.

Other LGBT advocates were reluctant to criticize Boehner directly for speaking in favor of the Civil Rights Act, but not bringing up ENDA, as they continue to work with him to bring the bill up for a vote.

Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he wouldn’t read too much into the Boehner’s appearance at the event.

“We’re continuing to do the work we’ve always done: bringing on more Republican co-sponsors to this common-sense conservative legislation in order to hit a critical mass that will push the Speaker to prioritize ENDA on the legislative calendar,” Angelo said.

Christian Berle, legislative director for Freedom to Work, had no comment on Boehner’s remarks on the Civil Rights Act, saying he had recently met to lobby with his office on ENDA.

“Throughout the rest of the year, there will be a number of efforts to push Speaker Boehner to allow a long overdue vote for LGBT workplace protections,” Berle said.

25
Jun
2014

Carney defends absence of ENDA in State of the Union

White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, Gay News, Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney insists Obama continues to support ENDA despite its absence from the State of the Union address (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney maintained Wednesday that President Obama continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act despite the lack of any mention of the bill in the State of the Union address.

Carney brought up ENDA as one measure Obama continues to push Congress to send to his desk, as well as comprehensive immigration reform, when asked during a press gaggle aboard Air Force One  about the extent to which Obama can use his executive authority generally.

Although President Obama didn’t mention ENDA or an executive order barring LGBT discrimination among federal contractors during the State of the Union address on Tuesday, Carney said no president articulates “everything he wants done” during the address and Obama’s record on LGBT rights is “crystal clear.”

“When it comes to the Employment Non-discrimination Act, he is fiercely supportive of that effort, enormously gratified by the fact the Senate took action and very hopeful that the House will follow suit,” Carney said. “Because as I’ve said many times, reflecting his opinion, members of the House who block this are being left at the station as the train moves forward on what would obviously be an America where equal rights are extended to all Americans. So I think his record on LGBT rights is crystal-clear, his position is crystal-clear, and he continues to press Congress to take action on ENDA.”

LGBT advocates — most notably the Human Rights Campaign — criticized Obama for failing to include in his address ENDA or the LGBT executive order, saying those measures would have fit well in the speech’s theme of advancing the economy for every American. Additionally, the president’s declaration that would sign an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contractors raised questions about why he hasn’t done the same to protect LGBT people from job discrimination.

Although Obama didn’t include a mention of ENDA in his speech, the legislation was included in a fact sheet distributed to reporters prior to the State of the Union address. It said Obama “renews his call for the House” to approve ENDA in the wake of bipartisan passage in the Senate last year.

Despite the White House’s assurance that Obama continues to push for ENDA, passage in the Republican-controlled House faces significant challenges. Just before the transcript of Carney’s remarks were public, the Washington Blade broke a news story that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the LGBT Equality Caucus wouldn’t get done by the year’s end.

The exchange between the reporter and Carney follows:

Q: And on this broad question again of using executive authority, are there particular sectors where you think — having done this assessment — where you think it will be most effective? I mean, obviously you’re very focused on a couple of economic initiatives now, but beyond that, can you just give us a sense of where are the areas where you think the President has the most leverage to do it?

MR. CARNEY: Well, it depends on what kind of use of the pen and the phone you’re asking about. When it comes to executive orders like the one to raise the minimum wage for federal contracts, that depends obviously on analysis of where he has the authority to do things. He has a much broader capacity to lift up and rally support around issues like the need to expand educational opportunity, access to education, or the need to connect skills training to employers.

You saw that with the summit a few weeks ago. You’ve seen it, another use of his authority in the establishment of manufacturing institutes, and he said last night that he intends to create four by the end of the year. And that obviously has enormous beneficial impact on the continued revival of manufacturing in this country.

So I think the opportunities are pretty broad. But we shouldn’t look at what a President can do simply through the prism of what legislation can get passed, nor should we look at what a President can do using the power of his office only through the ability to sign executive orders or presidential memoranda, because another aspect of his office and the authority is not specific to those issues. I want to be clear. This is not — I’m not foreshadowing anything. But obviously, the President did not enumerate everything he wants done and everything he supports in his State of the Union address. No President ever has.

When it comes to the Employment Non-discrimination Act, he is fiercely supportive of that effort, enormously gratified by the fact the Senate took action and very hopeful that the House will follow suit. Because as I’ve said many times, reflecting his opinion, members of the House who block this are being left at the station as the train moves forward on what would obviously be an America where equal rights are extended to all Americans. So I think his record on LGBT rights is crystal-clear, his position is crystal-clear, and he continues to press Congress to take action on ENDA.

More broadly, there is a great opportunity — greater in 2014 than we’ve ever seen — to pass comprehensive immigration reform in a way that meets the principles the President laid out, that reflects the support of one of the most diverse coalitions you’ve ever seen behind legislation, including business and labor, law enforcement, faith communities, Republicans and Democrats around the country. And we are hopeful and optimistic that the House will follow the Senate’s lead and this year pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The President has made clear that the way to address this issue is through a bill that takes action on security, on making sure everybody is playing by the same set of rules, on reforming our legal immigration system to make sure that all those super-smart people from around the world who come and study in our universities are able to stay here and start businesses in America so that the jobs of the future are here, and that creates a process by which the 11 million undocumented people in America are able to get in line and attain citizenship.

So we remain, as the President said, hopeful and optimistic that there is progress on this important matter. I think Congress will act.

30
Jan
2014

Cartoon: CPAC Unity 2014

CPAC, Republican Party, John McCain, Chris Christie, Illeana Ros-Lehtenin, Tony Perkins, John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh

It’s a tug-of-war in the Republican Party. (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

04
Mar
2014

Victory Fund’s dangerous endorsement

Richard Tisei, Republican, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Republican Richard Tisei is challenging a pro-LGBT Democrat for Congress in Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of Tisei).

By JOE RACALTO

 

Recently, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed former Massachusetts Republican Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, who is openly gay, for Congress. Although I applaud Tisei — and all LGBT political candidates who run for public office — this endorsement is not justified and sets a dangerous precedent.

Tisei’s opponent, Democratic Rep. John Tierney, has been a staunch champion for LGBT rights — even when it wasn’t popular. He backed marriage equality in Massachusetts, despite the criticism. He has supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act; he was a strong and early supporter of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and he has a HRC score of 100 percent in the 112th Congress.

Tierney’s support for LGBT causes is clean, clear and perfect.

And, Congressman Tierney will do one thing Tisei will not do — vote for Leader Nancy Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House.

It is no secret that Speaker John Boehner does not support ENDA, claiming it is not necessary. Nor is it a secret that the GOP continues to block or stall every single LGBT advancement at all levels, and in all parts of the country. Given the recent events in Arizona, ENDA is needed now more than ever and if Democrats were in control, ENDA would be the law of the land. Make no mistake, Tisei’s potential vote for Boehner would be a vote to further delay justice for LGBT Americans who face employment discrimination.

Torey Carter, COO of the Victory Fund, said Tisei’s election to Congress would “shatter a glass ceiling for the Republican Party” and “further the dialogue within the GOP about LGBT issues.”  With all due respect to Carter, at what cost and at whose expense? Should those who fight for LGBT rights have to sit by and wait for the Republicans to understand? Additionally, in order to “further” one must “start.” They have had 40 years to start the dialogue and who is gullible enough to believe Tisei can help them with that process?

This country has moved on and the election of Tisei over Rep. Tierney would represent a major setback for LGBT Americans. We must never, ever turn our backs on those who have championed our causes, like Tierney, simply to “shatter glass” or “further dialogue (within the GOP)” or whatever other reason the Victory Fund uses to describe this dangerous endorsement.

Joe Racalto is president of Giesta Racalto, LLC. He served as former Rep. Barney Frank’s senior policy adviser and is a board member at Freedom to Work.

04
Mar
2014

Republicans continue to self-destruct

Ann Coulter, CPAC, gay news, Washington Blade

This week, we will be treated to the annual spectacle of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a place where the most outrageous Republicans are invited to spew their venom to the party faithful. In the past the conference has hosted the likes of irrelevant figures like Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There is a certain Schadenfraude when I hear Republicans say things that are sure to quicken the downward spiral of the national Republican Party.

Republicans in places like Arizona who pass legislation designed to allow people to discriminate just keep adding to the view that the Republican Party today is a place that only welcomes those who want to discriminate against the LGBT community, women and other minorities. The few moderates left seem to be losing any control they once had of the platform or direction of the party.

That makes it difficult to convince people in places like Massachusetts to even consider electing a Republican. Take the case of congressional candidate Richard Tisei who is being touted as a moderate gay Republican who can change the party from within. The facts challenge that assumption. When he ran on a ticket for lieutenant governor with Charlie Baker who claimed to be a moderate, he couldn’t even get him to support basic equality for the transgender community. The Blue Mass group said, “If he can’t convince his own running mate in Massachusetts to be less extreme, how in the world will he convince Republicans from conservative states to be less extreme on gay rights or any other issue?”

Another problem with electing someone like Tisei to Congress is that his first vote would be for Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as House Speaker — the same speaker who has blocked ENDA since the Senate passed it last year.

This week, we will be treated to the annual spectacle of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a place where the most outrageous Republicans are invited to spew their venom to the party faithful. In the past the conference has hosted the likes of irrelevant figures like Donald Trump and Ann Coulter. This year promises to bring more of the same; the intellectual giant Sarah Palin will be there.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be two of the big draws. I understand they were excited to invite and get an acceptance from Christie before he got entangled in Bridgegate. It will be interesting to see how far right Christie will go to attract the GOP faithful. They forced Mitt Romney far enough right in the last election to ensure a loss to President Obama. Huckabee, on the other hand, already has just the kind of far-right cred they love.

Then CPAC attendees will surely hear from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). This is the same Ryan who ran as Romney’s running mate and managed to gain a reputation as someone who had a few problems telling the truth. He recently spoke about the budget he is preparing for the Republican House, which will question all the programs meant to help those in need, the safety net programs like Medicare, food stamps, Head Start etc. Democrats wait with baited breath to see if his solution is simply to cut these programs or to legitimately improve them.

CPAC attendees will also get to hear from that Joseph McCarthy-like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.). They will also get another chance to hear from right-wing Johns Hopkins retired surgeon turned Fox News commentator Dr. Ben Carson. This is the same Carson forced to withdraw as the Johns Hopkins commencement speaker after he compared gay marriage to bestiality and pedophilia. He attacked the Affordable Care Act as socialism by quoting Lenin: “Lenin thought so. He declared: ‘Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the Socialized State.’” Carson apparently took that quote from a brochure attacking Harry Truman for his attempt to get everyone medical insurance and some have disputed that Lenin ever said it.

Democrats aren’t perfect and there are Blue Dog Democrats whose voting records clearly don’t match the Democratic Party platform. The difference is those Democrats don’t control the party and they vote for a leadership team that is progressive and favors ensuring the human and civil rights of all people.

04
Mar
2014

Congress urged to pass anti-bullying bill

Linda Sánchez, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, California

U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) (Photo public domain).

Four members of Congress joined LGBT students and advocates outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday who called for the passage of a bill that would require schools to implement anti-bullying policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) described the Safe Schools Improvement Act she introduced last month as a “common sense piece of legislation.” The measure – which has 193 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle – needs only 25 more co-sponsors to ensure passage if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allows it to come up for a vote.

Sánchez told the Washington Blade after the press conference she has not “recently” spoken with Boehner or his office about scheduling a potential vote for the Safe Schools Improvement Act. The California Democrat said having more than 200 co-sponsors for the measure she first introduced it in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 “tees it up for that conversation with the speaker’s office.”

“As awareness about the issue grows, as members are personally affected or see constituents personally affected, I think they see the value in supporting this piece of legislation,” Sánchez told the Blade.

California Congressman Mike Honda – who founded the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus – discussed how his classmates subjected him to racial insults once he returned to the Golden State after living in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II.

“Our parents send our kids to school to be safe, not to be harassed,” said Honda.

Christin Manus of Dacula, Ga., said her classmates called her a “dyke” and other anti-gay slurs after she was outed during her freshman year of high school. She noted a group of girls told her they were going to “beat her straight.”

The suburban Atlanta teenager said during the press conference her parents did not accept her sexual orientation. Manus added she thought her teachers would have been disappointed at her because she was a lesbian if she told them about the bullying she was experiencing.

“If the Safe Schools Improvement Act were law, I would have had the protection I needed to feel safe in school,” she said. “With the passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, students like us will no longer have to suffer in silence.”

Honda noted during the press conference that 13 million students experience some form of bullying each year in the U.S. California Congressman Mark Takano referenced a Department of Education study that shows bullying affects 80 percent of LGBT students.

“We are just 25 votes away from doing something about it,” said the gay Democrat.

The press conference took place a day before the annual Day of Silence the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network organizes.

11
Apr
2014

Rea Carey arrested during immigration protest

Rea Carey, NGLTF, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, immigration reform, gay news, Washington Blade

Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said she wants action on comprehensive immigration reform (Photo by Kathy Plate)

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey is among the 27 people who were arrested outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday during a protest in support of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

She and others blocked an intersection outside the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a “Stop Separating Families Action” the Fair Immigration Reform Movement organized. Carey and her fellow activists specifically urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to allow a vote on the measure the U.S. Senate approved last year.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” said Carey before her arrest. “In this instance, Speaker Boehner is the problem. His intransigence on fixing our broken immigration system is inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on millions of vulnerable undocumented immigrants and their families.”

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement protest is among the events in support of the issue that have taken place in D.C. this week.

Participants who took part in a march from the National Mall to Lafayette Park that CASA de Maryland hosted called upon President Obama to stop deporting undocumented immigrants from the country. The National Council for La Raza and Causa, an Oregon immigrant advocacy group that backs marriage rights for same-sex couples and other LGBT-specific issues, are among the groups that also took part.

Immigration Equality on Tuesday hosted a press conference in front of the White House to draw attention to the issue.

Fernanda Vallejos, an undocumented transgender woman from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula who currently lives in New York City, is among those who spoke.

Vallejos — who worked for an HIV/AIDS service organization in the Central American country before traveling to Texas where her family lives — told the Washington Blade after the Tuesday press conference that she came to the U.S. in hopes of finding “a new chance of life.” She noted in Spanish that LGBT Hondurans are frequently tortured and receive death threats.

“If I go back to my country, I will return to torture or death,” said Vallejos.

Diego Ortiz, Fernanda, Immigration Equality, White House, gay news, Washington Blade

Fernanda Vallejos speaks outside the White House on April 29, 2014. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Vallejos last year spent two months in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities north of Houston. She told the Blade that officers made jokes about her gender identity and expression and placed her with male inmates — even though she identifies as a woman.

Vallejos urged Obama to help her and other undocumented immigrants.

“We are people in need,” she said. “We cannot return to our country.”

01
May
2014

House race divides LGBT advocates

Richard Tisei, Republican, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

Richard Tisei said he would serve as a strong advocate for LGBT rights within the ranks of House Republicans if elected. (Photo courtesy of Tisei).

The controversial decision earlier this year by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund to endorse gay Republican Richard Tisei over pro-LGBT Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) has prompted five openly gay or bisexual U.S. House members, all Democrats, to sign on as supporters of a fundraiser for Tierney.

The fundraiser, scheduled for June 25 in Washington, is being backed by at least two-dozen prominent LGBT Democrats and straight allies, including the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, former Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, and transgender advocate and Maryland State Senate candidate Dr. Dana Beyer.

Gay former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is among those signing on as an honorary co-chair of the fundraising event, which is being organized by two of Frank’s former staff members.

The former staffers, Joseph Racalto and Maria Giesta, principals in the Washington political consulting firm Giesta Racalto, said they initiated the event to “blunt” the Victory Fund’s endorsement of Tisei.

Tisei is a former Massachusetts State senator. He has a strong record of support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality. He backed a transgender rights bill that came up before the legislature.

Racalto and other LGBT Democrats supporting Tierney said they have no objection to an LGBT supportive gay Republican running for Congress.

But they said the Victory Fund should not have endorsed such a candidate in a race against a longtime straight ally such as Tierney, who has received a perfect 100 percent rating on LGBT issues from HRC.

“Although I applaud Tisei – and all LGBT political candidates who run for public office — this endorsement is not justified and sets a dangerous precedent,” Racalto said in a Blade commentary.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Tisei told the Blade he would be a champion for LGBT issues if elected to the House and would serve as a strong advocate for LGBT rights within the ranks of House Republicans.

He said he would not hesitate to defy House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) by signing a discharge petition to force Boehner and other House GOP leaders to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, to the House floor for a vote.

ENDA, which calls for banning employment discrimination against LGBT people, has been stalled in the Republican-controlled House. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the legislation last year.

Racalto said that while Tisei has personally been supportive on LGBT issues, his commitment to push for those issues came into question last month when he formed a joint fundraising committee with conservative Republican Frank Guinta, who’s running for a House seat in New Hampshire.

Guinta opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights and had considered aligning himself with the ultra conservative Tea Party.

Tisei said the joint fundraising arrangement will enable the two candidates to share expenses and won’t in any way compromise his positions in support of LGBT rights.

“During the past 10 years I have seen a lot of people’s positions change and evolve, including the president’s, by the way,” Tisei said.

He added that he sees his role as an advocate for change within the Republican Party and the Republican caucus of the House.

“A lot of people are re-examining their positions on marriage equality and other LGBT issues,” he said. “And I’m going to work with as many different types of people on as many types of issues as I can…And I can serve, especially within the Republican caucus, as someone who helps bring people over to the right side of the issue.”

Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, said the group endorsed Tisei last week. Angelo said he isn’t troubled over Tisei’s joint fundraising effort with Guinta.

“The more interesting aspect of this story to me is that ‘Tea Party’ types who contribute to this fund will be donating money to a gay Republican running for the House of Representatives,” Angelo said. “That’s the real story here.”

Victory Fund press secretary Steven Thai said his group saw Tisei as a change agent for the Republican Party along with Tisei’s longstanding record in support of LGBT rights when it endorsed him.

“I think it is sometimes shortsighted for folks to focus on the kind of short-term gains that can be made right now instead of the long-term goal that this world would be very different if we had more Republicans that supported us on our issues,” Thai said. “And the only way we’re ever going to get to that point is by electing openly gay Republicans that care about our issues.”

D.C. gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who signed on as a member of the host committee for the Tierney fundraiser, said he agrees with the Victory Fund’s mission of helping to elect LGBT-supportive candidates but not at the expense of long-time LGBT-supportive incumbents like Tierney.

“I don’t see this as a conflict with my support for the Victory Fund,” he said in referring to his role in the Tierney fundraiser. “I support the Victory Fund but not all of their candidates.”

Political observers in Massachusetts say Tisei has a shot at unseating Tierney in part because he’s perceived by many voters as a moderate Republican with a progressive record as a state legislator for more than 10 years.

Tisei came within just one percentage point of beating Tierney in the 2012 election at a time when Tierney’s wife and two brothers-in-law became embroiled in an illegal gambling scheme that landed his wife and one brother-in-law in jail.

Tierney himself was cleared of any wrong-doing in the scandal, in which his wife, Patrice Tierney, pleaded guilty in 2010 to filing false tax returns in connection with a checking account belonging to one of her brothers. As much as $7 million in illegal gambling funds passed through the account, according to law enforcement officials.

Politico reported that Tierney blames his brothers-in-law for duping his wife into believing the funds were part of a legal sports gambling business based in the Caribbean island of Antigua, which the brothers claimed to have been operating.

Republican Party operatives both in Massachusetts and outside the state have been raising the gambling scandal in attack ads targeting Tierney.

As if that were not enough, Tierney is being challenged by two Democrats in the state’s Democratic primary in September. One of the candidates, former U.S. Marine and Iraq war veteran Seth Moulton, raised more money than Tierney in the most recent campaign reporting period, raising concern among Tierney supporters. On his campaign website, Moulton has expressed support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality.

The gay House members signing on as honorary co-chairs for the Tierney fundraiser are Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), and Mark Takano (D-Calif.). Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the first openly bisexual member of Congress, also signed on as an honorary co-chair.

The name of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), the first openly gay person to win election to the U.S. Senate, is conspicuously absent from the list of honorary co-chairs for the Tierney fundraiser. Racalto said organizers invited Baldwin to participate but have not heard back from her office.

A Baldwin spokesperson didn’t respond to a request from the Blade for a comment on why Baldwin hasn’t signed on to the fundraiser. The Victory Fund endorsed Baldwin in her hotly contested Senate race in 2012 and helped raise money for her successful campaign.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has signed on as an honorary co-chair for the Tierney fundraiser along with Tierney’s eight House colleagues from Massachusetts, all of whom are Democrats. The state’s other senator, Elizabeth Warren (D), has so far not signed on as an honorary co-chair.

Other supporters of the event, in addition to Solmonese, Rosenstein, and Beyer, include former Barney Frank staffers Peter Kovar and Diego Sanchez; Brad Luna; John Weinfurter; Tucker Gallagher; Lane Hudson; and Paul Hazen.

Racalto said he didn’t extend an invitation to participate in the event to Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), who came out as gay last year and who has been endorsed by the Victory Fund in his race for governor of Maine.

“We didn’t invite him simply because of his run for governor,” Racalto said. “The Victory Fund played no part in that decision.”

Barney Frank, Massachusetts, World Bank, human rights, Democratic Party, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Rep. Barney Frank and several of his former staffers are involved in a June fundraiser for Rep. John Tierney. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

07
May
2014

ENDA’s long, frustrating path

Bella Abzug, ENDA, Democratic Party, New York, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Bella Abzug (Photo public domain)

May 1974 — Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.), along with Rep. Ed Koch (D-N.Y.), introduce the Equality Act, which would have amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation under the protected classes for employment as well as housing and public accommodations.

 

Gerry Studds, ENDA, Democratic Party, Massachusetts, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Gerry Studds (Washington Blade photo by Clint Steib)

June 1994 — Gay Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) introduces the modern version of ENDA, which includes protections only for employment.

 

Ted Kennedy, ENDA, Democratic Party, United States Senate, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Edward Kennedy (Washington Blade photo by Doug Hinckle)

July 1994 — Under the leadership of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the Senate Committee on Labor & Human Resources holds the first-ever congressional hearing on ENDA. Lesbian attorney Chai Feldblum is among the witnesses.

October 1994 — Running for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney pledges in a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans to co-sponsor ENDA “and if possible broaden to include housing and credit.” Romney would later say in 2006 he sees no need for ENDA before he pursued his presidential bid.

September 1996 — A deal is struck in the Senate to bring ENDA to a floor vote along with the Defense of Marriage Act. Although DOMA passes the Senate by a wide margin, ENDA fails narrowly by a 49-50 vote.

 

Bill Clinton, Democratic Party, Arkansas, gay news, Washington Blade

President Bill Clinton (Official White House Photo by Barbara Kinney public domain)

January 1999 — President Bill Clinton becomes the first U.S. president to call for ENDA passage during a State of the Union address, saying discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation “is wrong, and it ought to be illegal.”

April 2002 — Under the leadership of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee reports out ENDA to the Senate floor. The legislation never sees a floor vote.

 

Barney Frank, Massachusetts, Democratic Party, United States House of Representatives, ENDA, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Barney Frank (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

April 2007 — Gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) introduces a version of ENDA in the House that for the first time includes language barring employment discrimination against transgender people.

September 2007 — Much to the consternation of LGBT advocates, Frank introduces a new version of ENDA that strips the bill of its transgender provisions, saying the votes are lacking in the House to pass a trans-inclusive bill.

October 2007 — Even though the bill has been stripped of its transgender protections, the Human Rights Campaign is a signatory to a letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights urging members of Congress to continue to support ENDA.

November 2007 — The sexual orientation-only version of ENDA passes the House by a 235-184 vote. It’s never brought up for a Senate vote.

 

Barack Obama, ENDA, United States of America, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

President Barack Obama (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

May 2008 — In a heated primary with Hillary Clinton, then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama vows in an open letter to the LGBT community to “place the weight of my administration” behind the enactment of a fully inclusive ENDA.

June 2009 — Following the inauguration of President Obama, Frank again introduces a transgender-inclusive version of ENDA, saying “we’re beyond” any possibility of removing that language.

August 2009 — Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduces a trans-inclusive ENDA. It’s the first time a Senate version of the bill contains protections for the transgender community.

 

Thomas Perez, Obama Administration, ENDA, gay news, Washington Blade

Thomas Perez (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

November 2009 — Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez testifies on behalf of the Obama administration before the Senate, calling the bill “a top legislative priority for the Obama administration.”

 

Nancy Pelosi, ENDA, United States House of Representatives, California, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

June 2010 — After the House votes on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tells the Washington Blade a House vote on ENDA won’t take place until the Senate acts on the military’s gay ban. The House never acts on ENDA before Democrats lose control of the chamber.

 

Kylar Broadus (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Kylar Broadus (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

June 2012 — Kylar Broadus testifies on behalf of ENDA before the Senate HELP Committee, becoming the first openly transgender person to testify before the chamber.

April 2013 — Gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduces ENDA as its new chief sponsor in the U.S. House following the retirement of Barney Frank.

June 2013 — President Obama makes ENDA passage a major component of his speech during a Pride reception at the White House, saying, “We can make that happen — because after the last four and a half years, you can’t tell me things can’t happen.”

July 2013 — Under the chairmanship of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions reports out on ENDA by 15-7 vote, marking the first time a trans-inclusive bill has passed out of committee.

November 2013 — The Senate votes 64-32 on a bipartisan basis to approve ENDA, marking the first time the chamber has passed ENDA and the first time either chamber of Congress has passed a version of the bill with transgender protections.

 

John Boehner, ENDA, United States House of Representatives, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

House Speaker John Boehner (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

November 2013 — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he sees “no basis or no need” for ENDA when asked by the Washington Blade if he’ll allow a vote on the bill. The House has yet to vote on the legislation.

14
May
2014

GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania face calls to support ENDA

John Boehner, ENDA, United States House of Representatives, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

House Speaker John Boehner won’t bring up ENDA after a court ruling in favor of marriage equality (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key).

As a contentious mid-term election for control of Congress approaches, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has emerged in Pennsylvania as a campaign issue in competitive U.S. House districts following a court decision granting the Keystone State marriage equality.

Pennsylvania is now the only state with marriage equality, but no explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the workplace. Two Democratic congressional candidates are making ENDA an issue against potentially vulnerable Republicans.

Mary Ellen Balchunis, who’s worked as a political scientist professor and is challenging Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) in the race for the state’s 7th congressional district, and Kevin Strouse, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who’s running against Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in the 8th congressional district, and both calling for action on ENDA.

In an email statement to the Blade, Balchunis said supports ENDA and pledged to turn up the pressure on Meehan over ENDA if he doesn’t declare his support for the legislation.

“I can support this bill,” Balchunis said. “I do not believe in discrimination against any group of individuals. If Congressman Meehan does not support this legislation, I will call him out on it.”

Strouse similarly said he supports ENDA and passage of the legislation is necessary in the aftermath of U.S. District Judge John Jones III’s ruling in favor of marriage equality in Pennsylvania.

“I absolutely support ENDA, and would work to bring it to a vote by any means,” Strouse said. “On Tuesday the courts rightly struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage equality, yet here in Pennsylvania, LGBT people can still be fired from their jobs because of who they love. This is wrong.”

Strouse added passage of ENDA is “also smart for business” because putting an end to discrimination will make Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district a more attractive place to work for young professionals.

“Congressman Fitzpatrick’s failure to address this issue is only the latest example that he is not a leader who works for the best interests of our district, and lets his partisan ideology get in the way of economic growth,” Strouse said. “When I am elected, I will work to pass ENDA because it’s the right thing to do, and would bring economic growth to our district.”

Neither the office Meehan nor Fitzpatrick responded to multiple requests from the Washington Blade to comment on their position on the ENDA.

But both lawmakers are considered potential supporters of ENDA. Meehan and Fitzpatrick were among the Republicans in the U.S. House who voted last year for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which contained non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

The race between these Republicans and their Democratic challengers could be close. According to a Public Policy Poll published in October 2013, Meehan would lose to a generic Democratic opponent, 40-43, and Fitzpatrick would lose to generic Democratic opponent, 44-46. However, this poll was came out immediately after the government shutdown, so the situation for these Republicans may have improved since then.

The spotlight on Meehan and Fitzpatrick becomes pronounced as LGBT advocates are working to gain Republican support for the legislation in hopes of a House vote on the bill. Currently, the bill has seven Republican co-sponsors: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Jon Runyan (N.J.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.).

But even after the Pennsylvania ruling in favor of marriage equality, House Speaker John Boehner continues to be unmoved to bring up ENDA.

Last week during a news conference, the Washington Blade asked Boehner whether Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision to allow marriage equality to come to a state without LGBT non-discrimination protections should prompt the Republican-controlled U.S. House to finish the job by passing ENDA. The speaker was succinct in his response.

“I think we’ll leave that decision to the governor of Pennsylvania,” Boehner said.

In December, Corbett in fact came out in support for non-discrimination legislation within his state, saying he mistakenly believed those protections were in already in place at the federal level. His office didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on whether he wants the House to pass on a federal version of non-discrimination protections like ENDA.

The Senate last year passed ENDA on a bipartisan basis. A vote in the House is the only thing keeping the legislation from President Obama’s desk.

It’s possible the Human Rights Campaign could step in to influence the Pennsylvania races on the basis of ENDA. During the last election cycle, the organization endorsed Democratic challengers to the both Republican incumbents in their respective races.

Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president of communications, spoke generally about his organization’s endorsement process when asked whether support from ENDA from the two Republicans would prompt HRC to endorse the lawmakers, or stay out of their race altogether.

“We continuously evaluate races as we move through the cycle,” Sainz said. “We will announce endorsements in a manner that’s most impactful to LGBT equality.”

28
May
2014