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Transgender, gay workers' civil rights promoted in Employment Non-Discrimination Act bill

Frank says he understands why moderate Republicans and politically vulnerable Democrats have "some uneasiness" about the issue. He has addressed two of the bigger concerns: workplace bathroom use and the appearance of transgender employees.

"People aren't going to be disrobing" in the bathroom in front of colleagues "with the opposite set of genitals," Frank explained. To that end, he said, the bill would seek to protect employers from lawsuits.

The other issue, he said, is the "mustache and dress" factor involving transgender employees and the reactions of clients and customers. Employers would be able to enforce what Frank called "consistent gender presentation."

None of these efforts seem to be swaying Blue Dogs.

"I don't think they should bring it up," said Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), the former Washington Redskins quarterback-cum-congressman. "First, let's get our fiscal house in order."

Shuler, who serves as chief whip for the Blue Dog Coalition, said moderates have "walked the plank a lot around here on things that never go anywhere in the Senate" and that asking them to vote on a transgender bill in this year's political climate would be "a mistake." Asked whether he thought the bill would ever reach the floor, he said, "I can't imagine that it would."

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