The two openly-gay members of the US Congress are divided over proposals to remove gender identity from new legislation protecting LGBT people in the workplace.

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin has committed herself to including trans people in the new law, which Congressman Barney Frank insists will cause the bill to be rejected by the House of Representatives.

“Politically, the notion that you don’t do anything until you can do everything is self-defeating,” Congressman Frank said yesterday.

“These things take awhile. The transgender issue is of relatively recent vintage.

“Should we kill the whole bill?I have a very profound difference with people who say we should.

“I do not think you deny people protection if you can. A sexual orientation-only bill would be very helpful.”

He argues that LGBT activists should push ahead with a bill just protecting LGB people but admitted:

“Fighting your friends can sometimes be difficult.”

Congresswoman Baldwin’s “all or nothing” position is supported by nearly 300 organisations representing the LGBT community in America who launched a lobbying and advocacy campaign to win passage of a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Called United ENDA, the campaign builds off the past week’s efforts by legal groups, political organisations, grassroots activists and many others to maintain protections on the basis of gender identity in ENDA as the measure was originally introduced.

“I have personally spoken with well over one hundred Congressional colleagues, explaining the importance of this particular bill, listening to their concerns, and answering their questions,” Congresswoman Baldwin said in a statement.

“As a result of all of our work, and that of Congressional supporters, 171 Members of Congress have co-sponsored the legislation, authored by Congressman Barney Frank, which protects not only gays, lesbians and bisexuals, but also provides equally strong prohibitions against discrimination based on gender identity.

“It is my hope that the Committee will take up H.R. 2015 (ENDA) and pass it.

“I further hope for, and continue to work towards, passage of legislation by the full House, banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Jon W. Davidson, legal director of gay rights advocates Lambda Legal, has criticised the decision to drop trans protections.

“Congressman Frank clearly has stated that he does not think that President Bush will sign even a “sexual orientation only” version of ENDA,” he said.

“Congressman Frank likewise has not asserted that there are the 60 votes in the Senate that would be necessary to defeat a cloture vote.

“As a result, this absolutely is NOT “a choice between a limited ENDA and no ENDA.”

“We are witnessing a twisted version of the Boston Tea Party, with some blogmeisters, pundits and law professors all too willing to help throw the “T” overboard when the T is transgender people.

“Moreover, even were a “sexual orientation only” bill to pass the House, there would be no paddle for those stuck up the river in states without protective statutes.

“Any bill that has not been enacted into law provides no protection at all – to anyone.”