Hoyer Outlines Plans for Gay Rights Legislation

Posted April 13, 2010 at 10:42am

Updated: 12:08 p.m.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) signaled Tuesday that the House is likely to consider legislation this year banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying the proposal is not as controversial as it once was.

Hoyer pointed out that most Members already are on the record on the issue because the House passed similar legislation — called the Employee Non-Discrimination Act — in 2007.

“So it’s not like this is a new issue for the Members,” he said.

Hoyer also did not rule out action this year on legislation to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — another priority for gay rights groups. Hoyer noted that both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said they support ending the
policy and that the Pentagon was working on recommendations.

“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,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer acknowledged that there was “some controversy” surrounding the issues, “but I don’t think nearly as much controversy as there was.”

House leaders are not planning to tie changes of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to the Defense authorization bill, Hoyer said.

“I don’t know what he time frame for dealing with that will be,” he said.

But when it comes to another political lightning rod — a budget resolution — Hoyer did not rule out the possibility that Democrats would take a pass this year.

“We’d like to pass a budget,” he said. “We’ll have to see whether we have the votes to do so. Obviously … it’s difficult to pass budgets in election years. … Working on a budget remains something we’re going to do, and we’ll see if we have the votes to pass it.”

Hoyer pointed out that when Republicans were in power they did not pass budgets in 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2006.

“It will not surprise you that ’98, ’02, ’04 and ’06 had something in common,” he said. “They were all election years.”