Pelosi: Anti-Discrimination Measure for Gays Must Wait

Posted June 11, 2010 at 3:04pm

One gay rights bill at a time.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would have to wait until the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law banning openly gay soldiers from serving is repealed.

“We still have to finish ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference when asked if she had the votes to pass ENDA. “Our work is not finished in that regard, so one thing at a time. ENDA is a personal priority for me, and I want to stay on focus with that, but because the defense bill came up now, we did ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ first, [and] we want to finish that.”

Getting the votes for ENDA has been an uphill climb because of the desire to include job protections not just for gays, lesbians and bisexuals but also for transgender people, who were left out of an earlier bill that passed the House in the last Congress. Republicans who had backed the earlier ENDA bill indicated they would vote against it if transgender people were included, and a number of vulnerable and moderate Democrats had hoped to avoid any more tough votes before the midterm elections.

“It’s very important that we finish ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ before we move on to ENDA,” said a Democratic leadership aide. “We must ensure the community remains focused on getting DADT done and maintaining strong pressure to get the defense bill done in light of filibuster threats in the Senate. Then we can move on to continuing to assess the votes on ENDA.”

The delay likely means that ENDA’s best shot may come in a post-election lame-duck session, when political pressures will have waned somewhat.