NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

U.S. Senate passes ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, in historic vote

It took longer than it should have, but today, the Unit­ed States Sen­ate made his­to­ry by pass­ing the Employ­ment Non-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act (ENDA) which out­laws dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place based on sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion. The vote was six­ty-four to thir­ty-two, with four sen­a­tors not vot­ing. As is increas­ing­ly the case, Repub­li­cans sup­plied every sin­gle one of the votes against.

The White House applaud­ed the vote and released a state­ment by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma urg­ing the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to take up the bill imme­di­ate­ly.

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.

Top House Repub­li­cans, includ­ing John Boehn­er, have said they will not bring ENDA to the floor of the House for a vote, even though the bill is sole­ly con­cerned with LGBT rights in the work­place. Now that the Sen­ate has actu­al­ly passed ENDA, and with more Repub­li­can sup­port than had been antic­i­pat­ed, the pres­sure on Boehn­er, Can­tor and com­pa­ny to allow a vote will only grow.

As in the Sen­ate, Democ­rats would need to pro­vide most of the votes for ENDA to pass, which is a major rea­son why Boehn­er does­n’t want to bring the bill up. He was embar­rassed last month when the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus was unit­ed in sup­port of the bill to end the Repub­li­can gov­ern­ment shut­down and pay Amer­i­ca’s bills, while Repub­li­cans were divid­ed. No won­der he’s been so dis­mis­sive of ENDA.

But if Boehn­er thinks he can sim­ply ignore ENDA, he’s mis­tak­en. Deny­ing LGBT indi­vid­u­als rights isn’t just ter­ri­ble pol­i­cy, it’s increas­ing­ly ter­ri­ble pol­i­tics.

“This is a his­toric day on the long road towards equal­i­ty in the work­place,” said Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell. “For the first time, the Unit­ed States Sen­ate has passed the Employ­ment Non-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act to pro­tect all employ­ees from dis­crim­i­na­tion based on their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­ti­ty. I have been proud to cospon­sor this bill since 1994. Wash­ing­ton State is a nation­al leader in non-dis­crim­i­na­tion poli­cies. It’s time for the rest of the coun­try to catch up.”

“Today, we are one step clos­er to ensur­ing that all Amer­i­cans are judged on the job that they do, not their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion,” Cantwell added. “I urge the Unit­ed States House to move for­ward and pass this bill.”

The roll call in the Pacif­ic North­west on S. 815 was as fol­lows:

Vot­ing Aye: Democ­rats Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Max Bau­cus and Jon Tester (MT), Mark Begich (AK); Repub­li­can Lisa Murkows­ki (AK)

Vot­ing Nay: Repub­li­cans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID)

Once again, Ida­ho’s Repub­li­can duo in the U.S. Sen­ate have cast anoth­er embar­rass­ing vote that will reflect poor­ly on them in the annals of his­to­ry. But every oth­er Pacif­ic North­west sen­a­tor vot­ed to expand free­dom for LGBT indi­vid­u­als.

As men­tioned, no Demo­c­rat vot­ed against S. 815, although Sen­a­tor Bob Casey of Penn­syl­va­nia did not vote. Besides Lisa Murkows­ki, Repub­li­cans vot­ing for ENDA includ­ed Rob Port­man of Ohio, Kel­ly Ayotte of New Hamp­shire, Pat Toomey of Penn­syl­va­nia, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John McCain and Jeff Flake of Ari­zona, Mark Kirk of Illi­nois, and Dean Heller of Neva­da.

LGBT advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions applaud­ed the vote.

“This is a huge his­toric vic­to­ry for les­bian, gay, bisex­u­al and trans­gen­der peo­ple and their fam­i­lies. Most Amer­i­cans believe that every­one should have access to the Amer­i­can Dream, free from dis­crim­i­na­tion because of who they are or who they love. We thank the sen­a­tors who vot­ed to pass ENDA in a bipar­ti­san fash­ion,” said Rea Carey, ED of the Nation­al Gay and Les­bian Task Force Action Fund.

Human Rights Cam­paign Pres­i­dent Chad Grif­fin agreed.

“Each and every Amer­i­can work­er should be judged based on the work they do, and nev­er based on who they are. This broad Sen­ate coali­tion has sent a vital mes­sage that civ­il rights leg­is­la­tion should nev­er be tied up by par­ti­san polit­i­cal games… We firm­ly believe that if the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives were freed by John Boehn­er to vote its con­science, this bill could pass imme­di­ate­ly. It’s uncon­scionable that any one per­son would stand in the way of this cru­cial piece of the civ­il rights puz­zle,” Grif­fin said in a state­ment released fol­low­ing the vote.

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