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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis pledges to take the lead on ENDA

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
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A Colorado congressman who’s set to become the most senior openly gay member of the U.S. House is pledging to take the lead on perhaps the most high-profile piece of pro-LGBT legislation: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said during a Washington Blade interview on Tuesday that he intends to become the chief sponsor of ENDA following the retirement of gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who’s championed the bill since 2007.

Jared Polis
Photo: Michael Key, Washignton Blade

“I plan on introducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the next session,” Polis said. “Across our country, gays and lesbians face discrimination in the workplace and lose their jobs and their livelihood. It’s wrong and it’s got to end. People shouldn’t be fired in this country just because of who they date in their private life.”

In addition to taking the lead on ENDA, Polis said he’ll remain the chief sponsor of another pro-LGBT measure called the Student Non-Discrimination Act — legislation based on Title IX that would prohibit the bullying and discrimination of LGBT students in school.

Polis said he still wants to see President Obama issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to institute LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies. The White House said Obama wouldn’t issue the directive at this time in April, but it’s unclear where that stands in the wake of Election Day.

“I, of course, believe that the White House should move forward with preventing discrimination toward contractors,” Polis said. “That’s always been my position.”

Polis became the first public official to go on record in support of the executive order when he told the Blade during an interview in March 2011 that he’s behind the idea.

And Polis has other goals. He’s weighing a run for a seat in the House Democratic leadership as vice chair of the Democratic caucus — and his win would be another milestone because no member of the LGBT community has ever been elected to House leadership.

“I’m still looking at doing that,” Polis said. “I think it would be great to have more diversity in our caucus leadership. There’s never been a member of the LGBT community in caucus leadership.”

But Polis said he isn’t certain if he’ll make the bid and is waiting to see what positions other House Democrats are seeking. One lingering question is whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will continue her role as head of the caucus.

“A lot of members of the caucus are waiting to see who’s returning and who’s running for the different positions, so until that’s known, there’s no definitive candidacy, but I certainly have been talking to a lot of members about it and I’ve got a lot of encouragement from them,” Polis said.

House Democrats are set to vote on caucus leaders on Nov. 29. The vice chair ranks just below the House Democratic caucus chair. In addition to other duties, the vice chair has a seat on the Steering & Policy Committee, which assigns committee membership to Democrats and advises them on policy decisions.

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