The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation to make it illegal under federal law to fire someone for being gay or trans (sexual orientation and gender identity are not covered under federal civil rights laws) passed a key vote in a US Senate committee this morning, garnering the support of all 12 Democrats on the committee and Republicans Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mark Kirk (R-IL).
29 states do not protect gay people from being fired solely because they’re gay, and the same goes for trans people in 33 states.
Hatch is an interesting fellow. In the 1990s, when I did volunteer work for Senator Kennedy, working on ENDA and DADT, Hatch was surprisingly helpful on a number of Ted Kennedy’s Labor Committee issues, especially AIDS. Still, it’s interesting that Hatch, often considered a conservative Republican, would support ENDA.
GOP desperate for gay rights, ENDA, to go away
While ENDA’s chances in the GOP-controlled House are anyone’s guess, there’s a growing consensus that the Republican party would like nothing better than for gay issues to go away, especially with the Supreme Court all but confirming that the legalization of gay marriages is now all but inevitable. The GOP is worried about gay rights, and their opposition to it, playing into a larger narrative of intolerance, and simply being out of touch, that has Republicans concerned they are destined for minority status.
GOP’s “Latino problem” also a concern
Another area of concern for Republicans is immigration reform – and coming off anti-Latino. GOP Senator Lindsey Graham recently warned his colleagues that Republicans were in a “demographic death spiral” that could only be avoided by passing immigration reform. Graham of course, ironically, had only weeks before threatened to kill immigration reform if it addressed the concerns of gay binational couples. (Graham is concerned about a Tea Party challenger during his upcoming primary, and some think going-anti-gay is Graham’s way of proving that he’s not gay.)
As further evidence of the growing GOP concern about its famed intolerance dooming its future electoral chances, especially with youth (and women, and gays, and blacks), the Republicans recently decided to “reboot” their party, as if it were a computer that had been on so long its memory was far too cluttered to work effectively. Sadly, the angry old computer still keeps crashing.
Will GOP threaten “reboot” by dooming ENDA?
Back to ENDA. The theory goes, we force the Republicans in the Senate, and especially the House, to vote on ENDA and show the American people their true colors. Are they for jobs, and equality, and tolerance, or are they the same old GOP – Grandpa’s Old Party – they’ve always been?
What’s next for ENDA? The bill still has to go to the Senate floor for a vote of the entire Senate, and then the House needs to mark up the legislation in committee and hold a floor vote, which should be interesting as Republicans current control the House.