ENDA Now Includes DOMA Clause

Gay Congressman Barney Frank in Washington will no doubt garner some gay ire in coming weeks.

Frank, Human Rights Campaign and others have been busy hashing out the ever-contentious Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the latest controversy has nothing to do with trans inclusion, which has derailed discussions in the past. No, this latest brouhaha revolves around another hot-button topic: marriage.

A little-discussed provision of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would allow employers to give health insurance coverage and other benefits to married opposite-sex couples and deny those same benefits to the partners of their gay and lesbian employees who are legally married in Massachusetts and California.

A similar provision has been in the bill since 1994, when ENDA was first introduced on Capitol Hill, but the earlier language said employers did not have to provide benefits to the domestic partners of their employees.

ENDA, which bans job discrimination based on sexual orientation, now says an employer cannot be required “to treat a couple who are not married in the same manner as the covered entity treats a married couple for purposes of employee benefits.”

Before people start burning effigies, however, Frank’s quick to point out that he personally did not add the language. It is, however, necessary, he says: “It was the decision of the committee and of everybody else, myself, Tammy, was that we couldn’t pass anything without this…We had to make it clear that non-discrimination in employment had no effect on marriage one way or another.”