The US Senate yesterday easily passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by a vote of 64-32, with 10 Republicans voting with 54 Democrats. The bill bars workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity but got the necessary Republican support to break the filibuster only after an amendment was added that “would prevent retaliation against religious organizations that don’t hire someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity”, because of course it is taken for granted that religious groups must be allowed to discriminate against gays.
Here’s how they voted. Interestingly, even though 32 Republicans voted against, not one was willing to actually speak against the bill on the floor, showing how they want to hide on this issue.
The bill has to be passed by the House of Representatives before it can become law but it is clear that the leadership is facing pressure from their anti-gay base not to bring it to the floor for a vote. That would normally kill the bill’s chances but I am not as quick to write off the bill’s chances as others. The tide is changing (the last time ENDA was voted in the Senate was in 1996 when it lost by one vote) and there could be enough pressure to force the leadership to bring up the bill. It is estimated that there may be as many as 35 Republicans willing to vote in favor of it, which means that with almost all the 200 Democrats, it would be able to reach the 217 threshold to pass if it is brought to the floor. Some Republicans are pushing for it.
Rep. Richard Hanna of New York, one of the five GOP co-sponsors of the House version ENDA, pointed to his party’s loss in the Virginia governor’s race on Tuesday as a reason why the House needs to consider the measure.
“Certainly what we see in Virginia is a difficulty with women and minorities and that’s something the party needs to reconcile and look broadly and think about,” Hanna told CNN on Thursday.
Hanna’s message to the GOP was “we need to understand that standing on our own principles is part of this, but the world is a pluralistic place and we represent a broad cross section of Americans of different races, generations, sexual orientations, and everyone has rights.”
Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, a five-term Republican whose district has been targeted regularly by Democrats, is another Republican who is pushing for a House vote.
Dent told CNN the party’s loss to Obama is a key reason why it should get behind the bill.
“I do believe that we have to learn some lessons from the 2012 election, and to me this is one of them. This legislation, ENDA, is one way to reach out to the LGBT community in a way that is fair and reasonable and speaks to our shared values. I think we all agree we should not tolerate this type of discrimination in any form,” Dent said.
Dent also said passing the measure “would be an upside to the party, particularly with young voters.”
There are some tactical maneuvers that could be used to pass ENDA in the House, such as attaching it as an amendment to a bill (for) say military spending that will surely pass. Allowing such a move may provide a face-saving measure for the House leadership to enable them to pass ENDA while voting against it at the amendment stage. The leadership clearly sees opposition to gay-rights legislation as a loser and would like to get it out of the way. Majority leader Eric Cantor’s spokesperson’s statement was not that emphatic, only saying that “the bill is currently not scheduled”, which sounded to me like he did not want to shut the door completely.