Daily Update from Mara Keisling | National Center for Transgender Equality

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Daily Update from Mara Keisling

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tomorrow morning at 10AM, United ENDA lobbyists, staff and volunteers will be on the Hill for the Education and Labor Committee's consideration of H.R.3685, which is the sexual orientation only bill that NCTE and so many other organizations oppose. The Committee is called a "mark up" because the committee takes the bill as it was written and introduced and makes changes to it by marking it up with a pen. At least they use to mark it up with a pen. Now they just call it mark up even though it's probably all done on Microsoft Word.

Note that I said that they will be considering H.R.3685 and not our preferred bill, H.R. 2015, which is the original inclusive version. According to the rules, they must give at least 24 hours notice as to what the committee is doing so that everyone can prepare. On Monday they "noticed" H.R. 3685 and not H.R. 2015, so they either mark up 3685 or nothing. I'm ambivalent.

NCTE, along with so many of our allies, is strongly opposed to 3685 and has asked members of the committee to not pass it. In a sense, we do not actually need a whole lot of votes to kill it in committee—only somewhere between 3-6 depending on who comes to work tomorrow. There are 49 members of the committee when they are all there (27 Dems and 22 Reps) and we think there are as many as 27-30 votes in the Committee in favor of some form of ENDA and 19-22 votes against any form of ENDA. So a swing of a handful of votes can make the difference.

That being said, in another sense 3-6 votes is a whole lot of votes in this context. There are a lot of very motivated fair-minded Congresspeople who really want to pass a civil rights bill and asking them to vote no is a very serious issue that can make people very uncomfortable. On top of that, they now have the Baldwin Amendment in the future so the calculation for some of them gets more complicated. Some who are totally transgender-supportive may believe that they can best advance transgender inclusion by voting Yes for the bill to get it out of committee so Ms. Baldwin's amendment can be voted on and trans people will be back in the bill. Others are convinced they must stand totally solid against ever voting for a bad bill like 3685 even if it might be fixed later. We'll see tomorrow how this unfolds in the morning.

I ran into Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) last evening in front of his office, which is next to Tammy Baldwin's. He has been and continues to be a very strong supporter of transgender and all LGBT rights. Also from that committee I need to give kudos to Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Congresswomen Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) who all have been great spokespeople for our position.

Here is how crazy the last few weeks have been: my cell phone (actually a Blackberry-like Palm Treo) burned out. Stopped working. Quit. Last week it started overheating after so much use. One day I recharged it three times. Suddenly yesterday it was taking 20 minutes to download email, which is 25 minutes too long this week. I had to get a new Blackberry today, so that I could communicate tomorrow. I know for a lot of people, having email delivered to your phone probably seems like a luxury, but when you are in the Capitol in the middle of a legislative moment like this, you simply need to be in touch with so many people all at once, that you need your email instantaneously. So I bought a new Blackberry and now will struggle through the next few days with the typical problems you get from having new hardware. At least tomorrow in the committee markup, I'll be connected to my office and the other United ENDA people and Congressional staffers and even some of you who we will need to contact to make specific calls.

We will let everyone know as soon as possible when we know what happens in committee. For anyone in the DC area tomorrow, the mark up is being held at 10AM in Room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building. It is open to the public and presumably won't be full, but who knows. If you plan on coming email me on my new Blackberry and I'll tell you how crowded it is.

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