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Pelosi: ENDA an Historic Step Toward the Ideal of Equality

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the floor this afternoon supporting H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007 (ENDA).  Below are her remarks:

'This is truly an historic day. Today, the House of Representatives will consider and hopefully pass - for the first time - the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. As someone who has looked forward to this day for the 20 years that I have served in Congress, it is a joyous occasion.

'It simply would not have been possible without the outstanding leadership and courage of Chairman Barney Frank and of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.  Anyone who cares about a country without discrimination is deeply in debt to Tammy Baldwin and to Barney Frank for their leadership in this regard.

'While ENDA's victory will represent an historic victory, I share the disappointment of Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank and others who support including protections for transgender individuals in ENDA.  While I had hoped that we could have included gender identity, I support final passage of ENDA because its passage will build momentum for further advances on gender identity rights and the rights of all Americans.

'America is a country that is great and wealthy, but we cannot afford to squander the talents of any of our citizens, nor should we. We all benefit if everyone gets a chance to work hard, and support their families.  Yet today, in 30 states, Americans can be denied a job or fired because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  This is wrong. Working Americans should be judged on one criterion: what they do at their job - performance - and not be subjected to prejudice. 

'History teaches us that progress on civil rights is never easy. It is often marked by small and difficult steps. We must take this step today toward the ideal of equality that is both our heritage and our hope.

'I've heard the use of the word 'tolerance' today and I respect the use of that word. But if I may respectfully depart from it and say that in my community, which is blessed with a large, diverse community, our diversity is of all kinds - religion, gender identification, religious faith and the rest, and I always say that the beauty is in the mix.  And it's not that we're tolerant in my district, in California and San Francisco. It's that we have so much respect for the role that each person plays in our society. So tolerance, maybe; respect, definitely. But let me also add that it is the pride that we take in that diversity, it is the pride that I take in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community that brings me to the floor today to urge a 'yes' vote on this important legislation.'