Massachusetts Representative Barney
Frank has criticized a group of gay activists for disrupting a House
committee hearing demanding action on a federal gay protections bill.
The openly gay Frank called the action
“a stupid thing to do” and “immature.”
Speaking with D.C. gay weekly Metro
Weekly, Frank said he understood people's frustration in
getting the bill out of committee, but added that he “genuinely”
didn't understand the purpose of the protest.
“How does this help us get the bill
passed?” he asked. “Who's mind are they going to change?”
Despite strong support in the House
Education & Labor Committee, passage of the Employment
Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) – a bill which would ban workplace
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity
(transgender protections) – has been elusive.
The bill was introduced by Frank in
June of 2009 to much fanfare and received a warm welcome during a
September hearing in the committee. At the time, Frank promised a
vote before the end of the year.
But a November 18, 2009 final markup of
the bill was postponed.
On Sunday, Frank predicted the bill
would receive a final markup “this week or next week” and said
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, had promised
him the bill would get a quick vote in the House.
On Wednesday, seven activists from the
nascent gay rights group GetEQUAL were escorted out of the committee
and briefly detained after the group's leader, Robin McGehee,
confronted committee Chairman George Miller as the panel was getting
started. Holding a sign that read “GetEQUAL Pass ENDA,” she
pleaded with the chairman to end the delays and offered him a marker
to markup the legislation.
“Everything we do, we do
respectfully,” McGehee told the paper. “We have to disrupt,
because we don't have the access to power.”
McGehee also responded to Frank's
comments on the group's action: “I would say, from his position of
power, as an openly gay man, who is serving his community well … he
may no longer be able to identify with those suffering with fear of
job loss or other problems because of their identity.”
“We've waited too long already. …
We have been promised since last year and, since the '90s, that we
were going to have employment protection put in place. And yet, we
still don't have it on the House floor.”
The bill enjoys the supports 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, and has attracted 199
co-sponsors in the House.
GetEQUAL is also 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.