Gay activist Robin McGehee and six
other members of the gay rights group GetEQUAL were detained
Wednesday after they interrupted a House committee hearing demanding
movement on a federal gay protections bill.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act
(ENDA) would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation and gender identity (transgender protections).
The House Education & Labor
Committee postponed a November 18, 2009 final markup of the bill.
Last week, openly gay Massachusetts
Representative Barney Frank, the sponsor of the bill, said committee
Chairman George Miller had promised a final hearing on the bill “this
week or next week.” Frank also said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a
Democrat from California, had promised a quick vote in the chamber.
But activists say they've been here
before. Previously, Frank had promised a vote before the end of
McGehee confronted Miller as the
committee was getting started. Holding a sign that read “GetEQUAL
Pass ENDA,” she asked the chairman to end the delays. All seven
activists were escorted out of the hearing and briefly detained.
Miller, a California Democrat, said:
“It's not an easy piece of legislation. It's a really complicated
piece of legislation. We want to get it right, but we expect to have
it before this committee in the very near future. We're working on
it as expeditiously as we can.”
All signs still point to easy passage
in the Democrat-controlled committee, where the bill enjoys the
support of all of the committee's Democratic members and even several
Republicans, including Judy Biggert of Illinois, Todd Russell Platts
of Pennsylvania and Mike Castle of Delaware. The bill has attracted
199 co-sponsors in the House.
GetEQUAL is the nascent gay rights
group led by lesbian activist Robin McGehee. The group is calling on
activists to apply greater pressure – most likely including greater
civil disobedience – on lawmakers to pass ENDA and repeal “don't
ask, don't tell,” the policy that bans gay troops from serving
openly. It is also the group behind a Monday
“don't ask” action that interrupted President Obama as he spoke
at a fundraiser in California for fellow Democrat Senator Barbara
Boxer and Tuesday's
White House protest led by Lt. Dan Choi. In the second action,
Choi and five activists were arrested after they chained themselves
to the White House gate in protest of the military's gay ban.