History of Nondiscrimination Bills in Congress

Abzug, Koch and Voeller

The Task Force, a leader since 1973, to secure federal protections for our community

On May 14 U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.), in collaboration with the National Gay Task Force (Task Force), introduces the Equality Act of 1974, a federal bill to ban discrimination against lesbians, gay men, unmarried persons and women in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Abzug introduces the Civil Rights Amendment of 1975 which would add “affectional or sexual preference” to existing civil rights laws, separating sex and marital status from sexual orientation.

Task Force secures 27 co-sponsors for Abzug’s bill; the Task Force launches the National Convention Project to jumpstart LGBT community participation in that year’s Democratic Party primaries and convention, resulting in 600 delegates to the convention signing petitions supporting repeal of sodomy laws.

U.S. Rep. Ed Koch (D-N.Y.) assumes leadership on nondiscrimination bill; in March, Bruce Voeller and Jean O’Leary, co-directors of the Task Force, secure the first-ever meeting of gay and lesbian activists with White House officials, working with President Carter’s liaison Midge Costanza; by April, the nondiscrimination bill has 39 co-sponsors; Anita Bryant’s anti-LGBT “Save Our Children” campaign repeals Dade County, Fla., nondiscrimination ordinance and goes on the road to other cities in the U.S.

The Task Force reinvigorates the National Convention Project to elect openly LGBT delegates to the Democratic convention; the Convention Project results in support for a federal nondiscrimination bill in the Democratic Party platform; Virginia Apuzzo and others speak at a House briefing on the bill; an October congressional hearing in San Francisco on the bill marks the first time testimony on federal nondiscrimination law is taken.

Senate version of the nondiscrimination bill is preceded by a House vote to overturn the Washington, D.C., Sex Law Reform Act, which would have repealed the district’s sodomy law.

Jean O’Leary and others testify at a U.S. House hearing on the bill; the Task Force opens an office in Washington, D.C., under the direction of Mel Boozer.

Virginia Apuzzo, executive director of the Task Force, hires Jeff Levi to assume leadership of the Washington office; in response to the devastation of the AIDS epidemic in LGBT communities across the U.S., Apuzzo and Levi craft a plan to secure federal funding for AIDS research and treatment.

Apuzzo leads a massive demonstration at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, demanding protections of the civil rights of LGBT people and full, effective governmental response to the AIDS crisis; Democratic candidates Fritz Hollings, Walter Mondale and Gary Hart all endorse the federal nondiscrimination bill.

The Task Force relocates all operations to offices in Washington, D.C.

The Task Force begins years-long lobbying efforts to fend off viciously anti-LGBT amendments to AIDS funding bills; the amendments prohibit use of AIDS education funding for materials that “promoted or encouraged homosexuality."

The Task Force and colleague organizations pass the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law banning discrimination against persons with disabilities, including people with AIDS/HIV, in the area of private employment.

The Task Force launches a national campaign against the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain for homophobic employment policy, firing their "obviously" gay employees who were "failing to comply with normal heterosexual values."

The Task Force leads demonstrations at the Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas, where Pat Buchanan declares a culture war on LGBT people.

President Bill Clinton signs into law the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 1994, a bill to supplant the more comprehensive House gay civil rights omnibus bill originally conceived by U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug and the Task Force, is introduced, limiting the scope of protection to employment only; the bill has 107 co-sponsors and garners the support of a broad swath of the civil rights advocacy community; Senate hearings are held one month after introduction; Republicans take control of Congress, dashing hopes for progress.

Transgender advocates commence lobbying gay and lesbian leaders to amend ENDA to include transgender people.

The Task Force ramps up grassroots organizing to support ENDA, which receives its first vote in the Senate when it is amended to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); DOMA passes, banning recognition of same-sex marriages in all federal contexts, while ENDA fails by two votes; Task Force Executive Director Melinda Paras calls DOMA a “nightmare of injustice” and urges Clinton not to sign it.

The Task Force continues to support passage of ENDA, despite increasing pressure from transgender colleagues to amend the bill; in September, the Task Force adopts a new mission statement that, for the first time, explicitly includes both bisexual and transgender people.

The Task Force successfully lobbies the Clinton administration for an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal workforce.

The Task Force, just weeks prior to the re-introduction of ENDA, declares, “Without the inclusion of transgender people, the Task Force cannot endorse ENDA.” The Task Force re-directs its federal lobbying towards defeating the Religious Liberty Protection Act and other anti-LGBT legislative proposals that gain traction in the Republican-led Congress.

The Task Force vigorously opposes the “charitable choice” policy and practice of President George W. Bush’s administration, in which faith-based groups will be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; a nationwide effort led by the Task Force results in U.S. Census figures that show same-sex, unmarried partner households in 99.3 percent of all counties in the U.S.

The Task Force actively lobbies for defeat of a federal welfare reform bill that will devote hundreds of millions of dollars to “marriage promotion activities,” and abstinence-only sexuality education.

Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman, in a three-page statement that notes the Republican lock on Congress has stalled progress on nondiscrimination law, states, “ENDA isn’t poised to be pass and be signed into law anytime soon… Now is the time to make it trans-inclusive, so that when all the conditions come together and make ENDA ready to move at last, it will be the law we can all embrace.”

The Task Force creates a new department of Public Policy & Government Affairs to strengthen the Task Force's voice in federal matters; PPGA staff members begin vigorous lobbying campaign that results in support by the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights for including transgender people in future versions of ENDA.

Democrats re-take Congress, after 12 years of Republican dominance, greatly enhancing prospects for action on a trans-inclusive ENDA.

The Task Force keeps pushing for the introduction of a trans-inclusive ENDA. It is finally introduced with “gender identity” this year; however, later in the year, when it comes before committee, the House committee decides to consider a sexual orientation-only version.

The Task Force leads a coalition of organizations in opposition to the removal of gender identity, which ultimately becomes United ENDA, a coalition of over 300 organizations from throughout the nation, representing the full scope and breadth of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. United ENDA launches a vigorous and vocal united lobbying and advocacy campaign against a sexual orientation-only bill. These efforts delay consideration of the bill several times, but ultimately the House passes the sexual orientation-only bill.

The Task Force continues its advocacy for a trans-inclusive ENDA and continues to lead the United ENDA Coalition. The Task Force publishes a toolkit, Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, designed to empower activists to write the best letters, lobby most effectively and much more to ensure a trans-inclusive ENDA is passed.

The Task Force Action Fund applauds introduction of the again trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Committees in the House and Senate hold hearings on ENDA. ENDA acquires over 200 cosponsors in the House and 45 in the Senate.

The Task Force along with the nation’s leading LGBT organizations, along with allies in the faith, labor and civil rights communities, held a press conference to demand immediate action in both the House and Senate on the ENDA. It is part of a series of nationwide actions calling for a vote on ENDA.

In January the Task Force trains and leads 300 citizen lobbyists from across the country to Capitol Hill to push for Senate support and action on an inclusive ENDA. More than 70 Senate offices were visited and urged by constituents to demand action on employment protections for LGBT workers.

In June, Senator Harkin, Chair of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, held a hearing on ENDA. At that hearing, the Task Force's Transgender Civil Rights Project Director, Kylar Broadus, became the first openly transgender hearing witness in the Senate. The Task Force also submitted written testimony and worked with witnesses ahead of the hearing.

On April 25, 2013, Senator Jeff Merkeley (D-OR) introduced S.815 (Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013) in the Senate with five original co-sponsors. The bill was added to the Senate's floor schedule for November 4, 2013.

On April 25, 2013, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced H.R. 1755 (Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013) in the House. The bill currently has 193 co-sponsors.