Washington Update (November 1, 2013)

Yesterday, the AAUW Action Fund Lobby Corps went up to Capitol Hill to call on senators to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would explicitly outlaw workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. It was an exciting time because the Senate is expected to vote on ENDA as early as next Monday. You could feel the energy in the air.

As usual in Washington, D.C, we got heavily into the details, discussing the specific implications of ENDA on existing laws and regulations. And then a thought stopped me short: This issue isn’t that complicated. Yes, there’s the hard work of tinkering with statutes, but this bill is actually very simple. It’s basically about how we treat people at work, and how everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. As I remarked to Lobby Corps, the bill should really be called the “Just be a Professional Act.” People shouldn’t be judged at the office by their gender identity or sexual orientation, but by the quality of their work.

Despite this, the ENDA vote is expected to be close, and we need your help. Urge your senators to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. No one should be fired for who they are or who they love. It’s that simple.

Beth Scott
AAUW Regulatory Affairs Manager

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The Senate is scheduled to vote on ENDA on Monday evening – contact your senators before it’s too late!


Share the ENDA action alert on Facebook with the following message:

Did you know it’s legal in many states to fire someone for being gay? On Monday evening, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide nationwide employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Take action now –> http://bit.ly/Hwcvij


A new poll shows a disappointing number of Americans don’t think it would be a good thing if more women were elected to Congress. As an organization that works to close the political leadership gap through Elect Her: Campus Women Win, we disagree. Like this post on our Facebook page if you stand with us.


Yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Do you know your rights as a pregnant worker? Check out AAUW’s blog for seven things you should know about pregnancy discrimination.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a pamphlet called “Choosing a College: 8 Questions to Ask.” The pamphlet is intended to help people make educated decisions about for-profit schools. The FTC is concerned about predatory practices at many for-profit schools and is working to make sure students and consumers can make informed decisions.

Connecting with your elected officials about AAUW issues in a face-to-face meeting is a great way to develop a relationship with them and work to influence the positions they take on issues important to you. But what if you don’t have time for a formal meeting? We’ve updated our how-to guide to provide tips to make the most of what’s called a “drop-by” visit!


SUNY Resolves to Improve Campus Safety with Federal Guidance
The State University of New York (SUNY) system reached an agreement this week with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to ensure compliance with Title IX. OCR undertook this investigation proactively, not as a response to a specific complaint. This agreement has the largest impact of any of its kind regarding sexual violence since the SUNY system is the largest comprehensive statewide system of public higher education in the United States. The agreement, which comes after three years of site visits and reviews of campus policies, suggests areas for improvement, including standardization of policies across the 29 SUNY campuses, a system for reporting complaints at any time of day, and additional training for staff and students.

Senate Fails to Consider Yet Another Judicial Nominee
On Thursday, a procedural vote to consider the nomination of Patricia Millett for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit failed by 55-38 margin (60 votes were required to proceed with a yes-or-no confirmation vote). Thursday’s vote was the second time this year that the Senate has failed to give a confirmation vote to a nominee for the D.C. Circuit Court, which currently has only eight judges instead of the full 11.

Sen. Rand Paul Will Block Vote on Yellen
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced this week that he will put a hold on Janet Yellen’s nomination to chair the Federal Reserve in an effort to force a vote on a bill he believes will bring transparency to the central bank. A similar bill recently passed the House by a wide margin but has little support among Federal Reserve officials. Yellen was nominated by President Obama in October and, if confirmed, would be the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve.


Judge Overturns Anti-Choice Law – and Then an Appeals Court Reinstates It
This week brought more controversy over recent Texas legislation banning abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics, and imposing other restrictions on reproductive health clinics. On Monday, a Texas district judge ruled the new restrictions unconstitutional. Soon afterward, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed an emergency appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the district judge’s decision on Thursday. The appeals court ruling means that the law will be allowed to go into effect while opponents continue to challenge it.


Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced a new initiative Thursday seeking to eliminate the gender wage gap in his city. Despite high levels of education, women in Boston earn 83 cents to the dollar, according to the city’s Women’s Workforce Council.


Despite the thousands of letters from AAUW members and supporters, the House passed the misnamed “Retail Investor Protection Act” (H.R. 2374) on Tuesday. This act would delay the Department of Labor from updating its rule which requires investment advisers to be free from conflicts of interest that might benefit them at the expense of you, the client.

  • Find out how your representative voted.


  • On Thursday, the vast majority of Senate Republicans blocked a cloture vote on Rep. Mel Watt’s (D-NC) nomination to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency (60 votes were required to proceed with the nomination, and the vote failed by a 56-42 margin). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he will reintroduce a cloture vote on Watt’s nomination soon.
  • The cloture vote on Watt’s nomination was Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) first vote. Booker was sworn in on Thursday after winning the October special election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
  • The Democratic women in the Senate reportedly signed a letter earlier this year encouraging their former colleague Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.
  • The Easton Area School District board (PA) voted this week to appeal a federal appeals court decision that rejected the board’s attempt to ban “I (heart) boobies!” bracelets in schools. The board’s vote means the U.S. Supreme Court will now have to decide whether to hear the case or let the ruling stand. The case began in 2010 when two girls challenged the ban on the bracelets, which are intended to raise awareness of breast cancer.

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