House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a reportedly frustrated crowd at the Netroots Nation gathering of liberal bloggers and activists in Las Vegas that repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” will come before the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
Pelosi was asked at a forum with pre-selected questions about the chances for passing ENDA, which has been introduced in nearly every Congress since 1994 and would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Introduced in June of last year by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the bill has 202 co-sponsors but is still in committee.
“This is something that has to be done,” Pelosi said. “It’s so long overdue. It’s almost embarrassing to have to have to pass a bill to end discrimination in the workplace.”
The Speaker then said ENDA was going to be next on her agenda after passing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, “but there was support to take up ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ and we’re very proud that we passed that in the House.”
Pelosi predicted a repeal of the policy barring gays from serving openly in the military by the end of this year.
“I can’t give you a time,” she said of ENDA. “But I can tell you that it is a priority and it had been our hope to do it this year. We have to finish ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ and hopefully we can do both this year.”
When asked who was blocking ENDA and whom the activists should target, Pelosi said, “I think that some of the opposition comes from those perhaps in the work, um — in the business community who may not understand the — how this can be practically accomplished.”
Members of the gay-rights group GetEqual had already blocked traffic on the Vegas strip to protest the lack of movement on ENDA by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and bloggers reported a number of the activists were in the audience for Pelosi’s speech.
One of the activists shouted out “Move on ENDA now!” according to reports of bloggers in attendance. Pelosi responded that the activist’s impatience was “justified.”
“I love ENDA,” Pelosi said. “I feel a little pride of being there at the start of all that. Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and now Jared Polis, who is going to be here, I understand this weekend — have been an important part of all this.”
Pelosi said the activists’ grassroots help was needed to get the “biggest possible vote on ENDA.”