Baldwin: Pro-gay bills near passage in House

Mon. December 7, 2009 12:00 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

Wisconsin's Baldwin: "The tide of public opinion is in our favor."

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. House is ready to approve two pro-gay bills, openly lesbian Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin said Saturday at the 2009 International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

At the San Francisco meeting which opened Thursday, Baldwin told attendees that she expects a domestic partner benefits bill will reach the House floor this year and a bill that bans employment discrimination early next year, the AP reported.

Baldwin is the sponsor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 (DPBO), which would extend benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. Both chambers of congress have held hearings on the bill. And in November, a House committee gave its approval of the bill.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit workplace discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. ENDA enjoys strong support in the House committee reviewing the legislation, but a November 18 final markup of the legislation was postponed.

An attempt to repeal the military's ban on open gay service will come next fall. Baldwin said she was confident the measure will be tucked inside the military's 2011 spending bill.

The House, which is generally more liberal than the Senate, is expected to easily approve all three measures, but the bills will likely face a steeper incline in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

"I'm hopeful we will see those three pieces of legislation make it all the way, or damn close," Baldwin said.

A second openly gay member of the House, Jared Polis of Colorado, agreed with Baldwin's assessment, and John Berry, the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Obama administration, said the president supports the measures.

"The tide of public opinion is in our favor," Berry said. "The forces of intolerance are on the run. We have a president who has been clear in his support for our community and in his commitment to our equality. This is the best opportunity we will have as a community, and shame on us if we don't succeed."

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