The US Senate today passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation banning workplace discrimination against gay and transgender people, by a hefty 64 t0 32 margin.
The bill only needed to pass by a simple majority after it earlier obtained the necessary votes to break a Republican filibuster.
All Democrats (and Independents) present voted for the bill, along with 10 Republicans: Kirk, McCain, Flake, Toomey, Portman, Hatch, Ayotte, Murkowski, Heller and Collins.
The legislation now moves over to the House, where Republican Speaker John Boehner has promised to kill it.
Boehner claimed the other day that ENDA is unnecessary, as it duplicated existing protections under the law. That’s actually not true. First, here’s Boehner’s 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.”
It’s legal under federal law to fire (or not hire, or not promote) someone for being gay or trans. It also legal in 29 states to fire someone for being gay, and in 33 states to fire someone for being trans. Though, gays and trans people in those states would be protected if the city in which they live has outlawed such discrimination.
Another odd aspect of Boehner’s position: He claims that ENDA will lead to frivolous lawsuits and the loss of American jobs. But if gay job protections are already part of the law, and this legislation is duplicative, then we’re already have those frivolous lawsuits and lost jobs. So where are they?
As Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid noted the other day, Boehner claims to be worried about frivolous lawsuits yet he spent $2 million of the taxpayers money on his own frivolous lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act, which was struck down (in part) by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
Speaker Boehner opposes ENDA for fear of frivolous lawsuits? He led a frivolous lawsuit defending DOMA that cost taxpayers over $2 million!
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) November 5, 2013
Because of Boehner’s opposition, the prospects for ENDA in the House aren’t terribly good. Which raises the question of how big a victory this really is.
I’m not a terribly big fan of passing legislation in one House that you know won’t pass in the other. It’s not always a good idea to make your team take hard votes when the vote won’t matter, because the legislation is going down. But in this case, things are more interesting as the “hard vote” has tended to be the vote against ENDA, not the vote for it.
As Senator Reid noted the other day, both GOP Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, likely presidential contenders in 2016, chickened out when it came to speaking against ENDA on the Senate floor. Both men are known for being happy (and yappy) to go on the Senate floor and talk at length if it means a bit more media exposure. Yet on ENDA, they were silent (though they ended up voting against it). Arch-conservatives that they are, Rubio and Cruz fear that opposing gay rights might hurt their presidential aspirations, and Rubio is a religious right clone. That’s quite a tacit admission.
For that reason, the ENDA vote was likely a good idea, even if there is little chance of it passing the Republican House.
Clearly ENDA, and gay civil rights issues more generally, are making the Republicans squirm. What was once feared to be a third-rail for Democrats, has become a real third-rail for Republicans. And who doesn’t get a chuckle out of that.
Here’s a statement just released by the President:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 7, 2013
Statement by the President on Senate Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013
For more than two centuries, the story of our nation has been the story of more citizens realizing the rights and freedoms that are our birthright as Americans. Today, a bipartisan majority in the Senate took another important step in this journey by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would help end the injustice of our fellow Americans being denied a job or fired just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Just as no one in the United States can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, no one should ever lose their job simply because of who they are or who they love.
Today’s victory is a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago. In particular, I thank Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, Senators Merkley and Collins for their leadership, and Senator Kirk for speaking so eloquently in support of this legislation. Now it’s up to the House of Representatives. This bill has the overwhelming support of the American people, including a majority of Republican voters, as well as many corporations, small businesses and faith communities. They recognize that our country will be more just and more prosperous when we harness the God-given talents of every individual.
One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do. Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it. I urge the House Republican leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and send it to my desk so I can sign it into law. On that day, our nation will take another historic step toward fulfilling the founding ideals that define us as Americans.