Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Federal LGBT Rights Bill (ENDA) Passes Senate Committee 15-7!

Good news! The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a proposed federal law to outlaw employment discrimination by private employers based on sexual orientation or gender identity, has passed a Senate committee by a bipartisan vote of 15-7. The United States Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, chaired by Tom Harkins (D-IA) sent the bill to the floor of the United States Senate with all 12 Democrats voting for the bill (including openly lesbian Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), along with Republicans Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

The seven Republican Senators who voted against the passage of a bill to protect LGBT workers from discrimination (despite the fact that 90% of Americans incorrectly think that its already against the law to do so!) are Mike Enzi (WY), Lamar Alexander (TN), Michael B. Enzi (WY), Richard Burr (NC), Johnny Isakson (GA), Rand Paul (KY), Pat Roberts (KS), and Tim Scott (SC).

In the Senate, ENDA's chances of passage are unclear because it currently has 53 co-sponsors, 51 of which caucus with the Democratic majority. With the assumption that since Murkowski and Hatch voted for ENDA in committee they would do so on the floor, ENDA has 55 explicit supporters so far.

However nothing in the Senate passes unless it has 60 votes to end a filibuster. There are still three Democrats who have not publicly announced they support ENDA: Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Pryot (D-AR) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

There are also more potential Republican supporters, like Deb Fisher (R-NE), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) so it is possible that ENDA could pass the Senate in the near future. A version of ENDA (that did not include transgender protections) passed the U.S. House in 2007 but was never taken up in the Senate due to an outcry from LGBT activists about its non-inclusive nature.

If ENDA does pass the Senate it's hard to see how it becomes law since the Republicans who now control the House are openly hostile to the civil rights of most minorities in the USA, including LGBT people.

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