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Wednesday Speed Read: Virginia, Idaho, Equality Act of '74, Matt Foreman, ENDA, Alaska

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

NiemeyerFOURTH CIRCUIT SLUGFEST:

Oral arguments Tuesday before the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals over Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage suggest the vote will almost certainly be 2 to 1 vote. The only question is which way it will go. Sharp comments and fierce questioning by two of the three judges left little room for doubt on how their votes will split. Republican appointee Paul Niemeyer, 73, said allowing gays to marry could set the stage for a man to marry “six wives or his daughter.” He suggested same-sex couples could have a “parallel” type relationship “with less attributes.” Democratic appointee Judge Roger Gregory, 62, derided arguments by attorneys who said marriage laws are for heterosexual couples to “protect the children.” Gregory said that sounded like a “totalitarian system where people are baby makers and you get married for the interest of the state.” Full story tomorrow.

DaleTHE ‘SLOW’ MARCH IN IDAHO:

Just eight days after hearing arguments, a U.S. magistrate judge on Tuesday struck down Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage and ordered the state begin issuing licenses Friday. Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale’s 57-page memorandum order in Latta v. Otter, a case brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, says the ban on same-sex couple marrying violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees to equal protection and due process.  “Slow as the march toward equality may seem, it is never in vain,” wrote Dale, who said the state offered “no evidence that same-sex marriage would adversely affect opposite-sex marriages or the well-being of children.” The ruling made Idaho the 11th state this year to see its ban on same-sex marriage struck down. All are under appeal. In anticipation of Dale’s decision, Idaho’s Republican Governor Butch Otter filed a motion requesting a stay pending appeal.

SPEAKING OF THE ‘SLOW’ MARCH:

It was 40 years ago today that U.S. Reps. Bella Abzug and Ed Koch (D-NY) introduced the “Equality Act of 1974,” the first version of what is now the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The Equality Act was a much broader piece of legislation, seeking to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Over the years, the bill was trimmed and rewritten. Today’s version seeks to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity but only in employment with businesses of 15 employees or more and with exemptions for religious organizations. The bill passed the Senate last November for the first time in its 40-year history; but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has vowed it will not get a vote in the House under his leadership.

ForemanPULL THE PLUG ON ENDA?

Former National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman urged LGBT leaders to “pull the plug” on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), saying it is an “essentially lifeless corpse.”

COUPLES SUE IN ALASKA:

Five same-sex couples filed suit in federal court Monday to challenge Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage. That now leaves only three states with bans that have not yet been challenged in court: North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana.

LAMBDA AT ALASKA SUPREME COURT:

Lambda Legal argued a case before the Alaska Supreme Court Tuesday that could strike down that state’s ban on same-sex marriages. In Harris v. Millennium Hotel, Lambda argued that the state law barring same-sex couples the right to marry prevented Deborah Harris from qualifying for a survivors’ benefit paid through the state’s Workers Compensation Act to spouses of employees killed at work. Harris and Kerry Fadely were in a relationship for 10 years before Fadely was shot to death at work by a recently fired employee.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


GOP Congresswoman Throws Cold Water on ENDA 'Discharge Petition'

Advocates have long suggested that a discharge petition, used when a committee leader refuses to bring a measure up for consideration, is the only way to move ENDA forward in the House of Representatives, but at least one GOP sponsor says that won't be happening, the Washington Blade reports:

RoslehtinenRep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), an original co-sponsor of ENDA in the U.S. House, said through a spokesperson that she would not sign a discharge petition to force House leadership to move the bill to the floor.

“Rep. Ros-Lehtinen will not be signing a discharge petition as it is a partisan political tool,” said Keith Fernandez, a Ros-Lehtinen spokesperson.

The Washington Blade reached out to all seven Republican co-sponsors of ENDA in the U.S. House to ask whether they’d be willing to sign a discharge petition, but Ros-Lehtinen’s office was the only one that responded. In addition to Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican co-sponsors are Reps. Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Jon Runyan (N.J.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Michael Coffman (Colo.) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.).

ENDA discussion picked up this week after Vice President Joe Biden told the Huffington Post that he sees no downside in the President signing an executive order protecting LGBT people in the workplace.


Biden Remarks on ENDA Prompt Renewed Grilling of White House Over Executive Order

Jay_carney

In ani interview on Wednesday with the HuffPost, Vice President Joe Biden said he didn't see any downside in the President issuing an executive order  on LGBT workplace discrimination but said that the White House still prefers the matter be handled legislatively, by passing ENDA.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about that statement yesterday.

Here is the transcript, via the White House:

Q    The Vice President said yesterday that he doesn’t see any downside to the President taking executive action on LGBT workplace discrimination.  Does the President agree?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think the complete statement was that what we’re focused on -- the big accomplishment, which would be passage by both houses of Congress and the signing into law by the President of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

I think it’s -- points have been made, and I think in response to something I said earlier, that it’s clear that executive orders aren’t necessarily completely overlapping with what would be achieved by legislation.  I think there’s no doubt that the legislation would be a far greater accomplishment and more broadly applied.  And that is why we continue to push the House to follow the Senate’s lead and pass that, because those who oppose it, I hope -- at least their children -- will regret the reasons they put forward for opposing it, because they sound a lot like the reasons opponents argued against civil rights legislation in the past.  And they were wrong there.  They’re wrong now.

So I don’t have any updates on suggested or proposed executive orders.  What I can tell you is that we still call on Congress, the House, to follow the Senate’s lead and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Q    What is there a reluctance to do something on the executive order when it could complement this broader push that you guys really want?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I just don’t engage in discussion about speculative executive orders.  When the President decides to take action using his administrative authority, some --

Q    But the Vice President speculated.  He said that he didn’t see any downside.

MR. CARNEY:  No, I think he answered a question about it, as I have repeatedly.   And I’m happy to.  I think this is an incredibly important issue, and I think it is remarkable how much progress has been made and remarkable that there is still resistance to the progress that remains to be made.  That’s certainly the President’s view.

I just don’t -- I try not to engage in speculation about any executive action the President may or may not take.  What I can tell you is that there is legislation on Capitol Hill that we strongly support and would like to see passed by the House.  Thank you all very much.

In March, 195 lawmakers, all Dems, signed a letter urging Obama to issue the executive order.


Houston Mayor Annise Parker Introduces Ordinance Protecting LGBT City Workers From Discrimination

Today, Houston mayor Annise Parker introduced an Equal Rights Ordinance that would protect the city’s public and private employees from workplace, housing and public accommodation discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Anisse_parkerNews 92 FM reports that “Religious organizations would be exempt in order to avoid First Amendment issues," and that "Parker plans to present the draft ordinance to the Houston City Council Quality of Life Committee on April 30. Consideration by the full council is scheduled for May 7.”

John Wright at Lone Star Q adds that, “Parker previously indicated that an earlier draft of the proposed ordinance didn’t include citywide employment protections, leading to a major push by LGBT advocates to have the provision added.”

Wright also adds that Houston was “the only major city in Texas, and one of the few in the nation, that lacks citywide LGBT protections,” and that “Mayor Parker has exempted companies with fewer than 50 employees… three times higher than under the Austin or Dallas [non-discrimination ordinances], or under the federal [Employment Non-Discrimination Act].” Wright surmises that Parker may have had to do this in order to earn votes for the ordinance’s passage.

The Human Rights Campaign’s National Field Director Marty Rouse thanked Mayor Parker for leading on the issue:

“It is far past time to protect the citizens of Houston from all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As the nation’s fourth largest city, Houston is an epicenter for business and culture. Cities thrive when all citizens feel welcome and part of the cultural fabric. Today, Mayor Parker told every Houstonian that they are a valued part of the city’s future."


Apple CEO Tim Cook Again Urges Congress to Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Tim cookApple CEO Tim Cook took to Twitter on Friday to once again urge Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, writing:

The House should mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act by passing ENDA. @SpeakerBoehner @GOPLeader @NancyPelosi @WhipHoyer

ENDA passed the Senate with bipartisan support back in November, but has continued to face stiff opposition from GOP leadership in the House. 


Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman Becomes Seventh House Republican To Support ENDA

As the battle to get an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) signed into law wages on, Politico reports that Colorado representative Mike Coffman has signed on to become the seventh GOP co-sponsor of the legislation in the House of Representatives:

CoffmanThat Coffman is one of the first Republicans coming out in support of ENDA is no surprise, and it highlights another step in his political evolution. The Colorado Republican has reversed positions on immigration and abortion in recent months as he tries to fend off an challenge from Democrat Andrew Romanoff in Colorado’s competitive sixth district.

“I see this legislation as the workplace equivalent of the Golden Rule — do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” Coffman said in a statement to POLITICO. “In the workplace, in 2014, we should judge employees the way we would want to be judged — based on our qualifications, our contributions and by our character, period.”

ENDA cleared the Senate last year and now must be passed by the House of Representatives before being sent to the President for his signature or veto.

Coffman joins fellow Republican Representatives Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Charles Dent (Pa.), Jon Runyan (N.J.) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.) in sponsoring the bill. Eight house Democrats are currently not co-sponsoring the legislation: they are Reps. Dan Lipinksi (Ill.), Jim Costa (Calif.), John Barrow (Ga.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Pete Gallego (Texas), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Gene Green (Texas) and Nick Rahall (W.Va.). The bill still needs support from 16 more representatives to receive the required majority to pass in the House. However, even if the bill gained the necessary traction  among rank and file representatives, it would still need to be granted a vote on the House floor by Speaker of the House John Boehner, something Boehner has said he would not do in 2014. For that reason, many prominent political players, including the HRC and DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias, have expressed frustration at the White House’s refusal to consider an ENDA executive order.


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