If everything goes as planned, gay rights history will be made on Thursday in the Senate.
Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday set up the the final series of votes for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — which prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — culminating in a vote final passage on Thursday afternoon if the bill passes a key, 60-vote threshold procedural test in the morning.
Senate passage of ENDA seemed more and more likely Wednesday after the Senate unanimously accepted an amendment by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) protecting religious groups exempted under the legislation from government retaliation. That amendment likely secured the vote of several other Republicans pushing for that language, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Few voters would be surprised to learn Speaker John Boehner came out against a Senate bill banning discrimination against LGBT employees For Republicans, that’s a problem.
On Monday night, the Senate voted to open debate on The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, overcoming a filibuster with 61 votes thanks to support from a handful of Republicans. Not a single Republican Senator delivered a speech opposing its passage. President Obama is campaigning for the bill in the run up to the final vote, which is expected later this week.
Politically, voting “yes” should be a no-brainer. While support for gay marriage only recently crossed into majority backing, the margin is overwhelming for workplace protection. Republican pollster Alex Lundry found 68% of respondents supported its passage in September. Not only that, about to 8 in 10 respondents assumed incorrectly that such anti-discrimination measures were already in place. Both these results track closely with an earlier poll by the liberal Center for American Progress in 2011.
But majority support, even overwhelming majority support, isn’t good enough for the House GOP on ENDA. Just as it isn’t good enough on immigration or keeping the government funded without incident.
“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in a statement.
While not an entirely new position for Boehner, who has claimed in the past that existing employment laws provide sufficient protection for LGBT Americans, his renewed criticism means ENDA will likely not get a vote in the House this year.
Though Rubio bristles at the notion of being called a “bigot,” he showed no willingness to help protect LGBT workers from discrimination. “I’m not for any special protections based on orientation,” Rubio told ThinkProgress.
KEYES: The Senate this summer is going to be taking up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which makes it illegal to fire someone for being gay. Do you know if you’ll be supporting that?
RUBIO: I haven’t read the legislation. By and large I think all Americans should be protected but I’m not for any special protections based on orientation.
KEYES: What about on race or gender?
RUBIO: Well that’s established law.
KEYES: But not for sexual orientation?
Workplace discrimination is an all-too-frequent reality for LGBT individuals. Two out of every five openly lesbian, gay, or bisexual employees have reported discrimination at their jobs. Among transgender workers, that figure rises to nine out of ten.
Though other Republicans have applauded Rubio’s so-called “middle ground” on LGBT issues, his record of late tells a far different story. In addition to opposing ENDA and marriage equality, Rubio also said today that he would walk away from his own immigration bill if it includes protections for gay couples.
Currently, 29 states have no laws protecting gay and lesbian workers from discrimination in the workplace, and an additional five states don’t protect workers based on gender identity. And yet nine in ten Americans mistakenly believe that it is illegal to fire someone for being gay.
LGBT workers aren’t asking for “special protections,” as Rubio would have people believe. They’re asking to be treated like everyone else and be allowed to do their job without fear of being harassed or fired for who they are. [QUOTE]