When the South starts giving up on gay marriage, it’s time for the GOP to at least give in on ENDA

Republican Speaker of the US House John Boehner yesterday came out in opposition to legislation banning employment discrimination against gays (ENDA).

Then, in a move intended to somehow deflect criticism that he’s a flaming bigot, Boehner’s office issued a clarification saying Boehner’s opposition to the civil rights law wasn’t “news,” since he’s been opposed to helping gays for years.

Yes, that helps.

And while it’s true that the Republican party’s disdain for gays, blacks, Latinos, immigrants, Jews, and women (among others) isn’t anything “new” – it’s quite old, in fact – what is newsworthy is the GOP’s stubborn refusal, or rank inability, to evolve with the times.

Also newsworthy is their penchant for lying in order to cover up their prejudice.  Sam Stein has more from a Boehner aide:

“We have always believed this is covered by existing law,” the aide said, adding that it is “not a new issue or a new position — it’s a longstanding position, and, frankly, not ‘news’ at all. This has been his position, on the record, for years, stated publicly many times.”

If Speaker Boehner has always believed that discrimination based on sexual orientation is covered by existing law, then Speaker Boehner is a bit of an idiot.

boehner

GOP US House Speaker John Boehner

Now, granted, one has to give the Speaker a little leeway as most Republican leaders aren’t terribly familiar with the concept of civil or human rights.  So they probably make the same mistake a lot of Americans do, thinking that “discrimination” is already “illegal” in America, and certainly “banned by the Constitution.”

In fact, generally speaking, the only “discrimination” in employment that’s banned is discrimination that is specifically listed in the law.  The current categories in the law are: race, skin color, religion, national origin, disability, gender, and age.  Sexual orientation isn’t in the list, nor is gender identity, so it is legal under federal law to fire someone for being gay or transgender. It is also legal to fire someone for being gay in 29 states, and for being trans in 33 states. ENDA would fix that under federal law.

So Speaker Boehner is wrong when he says that “this” is covered by existing law. It’s not. It is however a handy talking point for reinforcing the public’s existing confusion about the law.  And as I always say, Republicans learned long ago that the truth usually doesn’t win them many fights.  So they tend to embrace the alternative.

In spite of all that, ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), passed a key hurdle last night in the US Senate, and is headed towards a final vote in that body this week.

The problem now – assuming ENDA does pass the Senate – is going to be the Republican-controlled House.

I harbor no illusions that the House is going to pass ENDA.  I do however think that anti-gay prejudice in the year 2013 is about as popular as a government shutdown.  And the ENDA vote in the House, at the very least, is one more stake in the heart of GOP extremism, helping to expose that party’s bigots to the light of day, and to American voters.

And while intolerance plays well with half the party base (the Tea Partyers seem far less interested in gay-bashing than their religious right GOP-base brethren), it doesn’t serve the Republicans terribly well in America’s big cities, or in national elections.

And if recent polls are to believed, even the South, the GOP’s last bastion of intolerance, is heading south.

A new gay marriage poll in South Carolina ought to give Republicans pause – so says Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza.  The poll shows that only 52% of South Carolinians oppose legal recognition of gay marriage.  Here’s Cillizza:

There’s a fascinating new poll number out of South Carolina that tells you everything you need to know about where the politics of same-sex marriage in the country are headed and why Republicans need to be very careful with how they handle the issue in the coming years….

Republicans, particularly those with an eye on a future national bid in 2016 or beyond, would do well to take note of the movement on gay marriage in South Carolina. While a Republican primary electorate — like, say, for the state’s first-in-the-South presidential primary in 2016 —  will still likely be strongly opposed to gay marriage, the simple fact is that the movement on the issue is all in one direction. And, for a party that currently finds itself struggling to build a national coalition in future presidential elections, this poll should be a wake-up call.

And while the poll was about gay marriage and not ENDA, banning discrimination in the workplace is a far less controversial topic than two men getting hitched.

So in the end, John Boehner is right. His anti-gay bigotry isn’t new.  It is, however, starting to get old.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • Lois

    While I agree in theory, you sound as if only the GOP insist on making Congress their life’s work….really. Kennedys, Kerrys, this whole pension plan is ludicrous and term limits need to be imposed…who is going to vote them in ? The Dems ?? Yeah right. Remember there are 2 sides of that aisle…color me independent.

  • It’s really hard to imagine a Speaker more incompetent and feckless than Boehner.

  • The anti-gay bigots have convinced themselves that it’s isn’t discrimination to discriminate against LGBTs because, in their minds, we deserve it. That’s why there’s all the pejorative and slanderous rhetoric — and the constant lies, equating gay with pedophile and so on. Thus in their minds, the only discrimination possible under the circumstances is them being prevented from expressing their religiously-motivated prejudice and bigotry.

  • Given how rigid GOP/Tea-Bagger dogma has become, and how deviations from any part of it — even if some of their increasingly radicalized base doesn’t care about whatever the issue is — I don’t see them moving off their anti-gay bigotry positions anytime soon.

    Okay, so the Tea Baggers don’t especially care whether or not the GOP has the anti-gay ‘marriage protection (sic) amendment’ in the 2016 GOP party platform. I’ll bet right now that it’s a done deal the amendment plank will remain in there, because another part of the GOP base — the radical Dominionists and Fundamentalists — will demand it.

  • There’s that dog whistle again.

    This statement of Boehner’s is there to reassure the religious fundamentalists that he’s on their side. He’s using all of the right words that are designed to convince those people that he’s in their corner. Of course, he’s against discrimination, we already have laws against it, so there’s no problem. Of course that’s wrong and he knows that. But it appeals to the less intellectually empowered.

    This idiot-speak that will doubtless be repeated as talking points this Sunday on Fox News. We all know that they are crap, but to those who can’t think any further than their own noses, they are a novel argument. In reality, they are a reflection of lead-block stupidity.

  • nicho

    And those that do are threatened by the government, if not imprisoned and tortured.

  • MichaelS

    I **HOPE** the idiots running the WH message machine remember this quote and repeat it on video hundreds of times, when (if?) the President finally screws up the courage to issue an Executive Order banning LGBT discrimination in federal contracts… and then the Repug slander machine accuses him of over-stepping his authority. How can he be over-stepping his authority if, as Boehner claims, he’s merely enforcing the law?…

  • gratuitous

    And, if Boehner’s dubious assertion that the provisions of ENDA are already covered by existing law, then it doesn’t change anything to pass ENDA. But there’s probably no room on the House calendar, what with the 45th, 46th, and 47th votes to repeal Obamacare coming up, not to mention all those Post Office naming resolutions, and the commemoration of National Rake Handle Production Week.

  • Bill_Perdue

    It they were really pro-LGBT Democrats could and should have passed an inclusive, effective ENDA in 2009-10 but refused they to. They’ve refused to for about 40 years if you include predecessor bills introduced by Abzug and Koch,

    The House passed a form of ENDA in 2007 after it was gutted by Frank and was worthless. He accepted all the Republican amendments but Frank himself took the lead in attacking trans people. Democrats dropped it to make it harder for Republicans to accuse them of being partial to the LGBT communities.

    They move on ENDA when it can’t become law and when they need money and votes.

  • Monoceros Forth

    (fun fact, one of my buddies was fired from his job because while hanging up his phone on his break he said, “I love you” to his boyfriend)

    That’s just awful. Here on the Left Coast I can be somewhat less careful about it but, all the same, when starting a new job I’ll take care to leave my private life vague, at least for a while.

  • rextrek

    meanwhile our neighbors to the North LAUGH at Merikkka…..and its blatant hypocracy and LYING CREEDS about Liberty this, and Freedom that……..merikkka the EMBARRASSMENT!

  • S1AMER

    Actually, Boehner’s words represent a step forward from just a few years ago. Instead of ranting and raving about “moral” issues and how those “hairy men in dresses” would molest good little white Christian girls, he’s fallen back on the old Republican complaints about lawsuits enriching trial lawyers.

    Boehner and other savvy Republicans have a real dilemma: Their christianist/tea party base still hates on gay people in a very big way, but gay bashing no longer works with better educated old-fashioned types of Republicans or with the swing votes in the middle. It’s an increasingly narrow path to try to navigate.

  • FLL

    True, it depends on the congressional district. The level of popular support for ENDA is very high as a national average. I hope the districts back in Ohio are not too far behind the national average.

  • Drew2u

    Depends on how it’ll be received by the voting block of Ohio. If they don’t give a flying patootie, then why should Boehner?
    (fun fact, one of my buddies was fired from his job because while hanging up his phone on his break he said, “I love you” to his boyfriend)

  • FLL

    2014 is almost upon us, and Boehner’s BS is an embarrassment, as it should be. His nonsense runs counter to overwhelming popular opinion. The House of Representatives is a numbers game, of course: 2 additional seats is better than 1 additional seat, 5 additional seats is better than 2 additional seats, etc.

  • Drew2u

    Agreed, but I was worried using “Stenography” anywhere in my post would’ve made it confusing for some. But yes, I agree that modern reporting is nothing but reading back statements without any actual investigation or journalism involved. It makes me embarrassed for whatever journalism school those guys and gals graduated from.

  • caphillprof

    I think the correct term is “on lazy stenography”, few “journalists” practice journalism.

  • caphillprof

    John Boehner has lived on Capitol Hill so long that I cannot believe there are not a lot of gay men and lesbians in his personal daily life. I wonder who they are and what they should be saying and doing.

    I also love the notion that he opposes the law because it would cost small Republican businesses to defend their bigotry in court. It costs nothing to comply with the law, that is the point.

  • Sally

    Exactly. The GOP are masters at manipulating the complicit media, and on the rare occasions they do get called out, the easily blame the ‘liberal media’ for daring to tell the truth. Horrors! And the rubes believe what they were told the first time, and second and third. What’s amazing is how many of these GOP guys insist on making Congress their life’s work. Of course, where in the decimated private sector could they ‘work’ 128 days a year for $178,000? They have to lie to keep their cushy jobs. and Boehner, even as the most ineffective and stupid Speaker in history, makes even more than that. We live in odd times. One can hope that voters will wise up and get rid of the stupids next year, or that CU is gutted, or that pigs fly, but until then, we have to be vigilant and keep the facts coming.

  • Drew2u

    He’s not an idiot, he’s just toeing the party line. The statement isn’t meant for us, it’s meant for that granny in Kentucky or Ohio who doesn’t follow the news that often. Because it’ll never be reported as a followup that his statement is a lie, news companies will just report his statement and not challenge it, thus creating the illusion that his statement is true.
    It all hinges on lazy reporting by local (and national) media.

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