ENDA has passed, at least in the Senate. It, of course, is most likely DOA in the Tea Party-controlled House of Representatives, but John Boehner could allow a conscience vote in the House. The Human Rights Campaign is encouraging him to do so, and asking President Obama to sign an executive order banning discrimination by federal contractors. Chad Griffin’s statement:
“Today, a strong bipartisan majority of the United States Senate made history by standing up for a fundamental American truth. 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 Representative were freed by Speaker 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.”
Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, prematurely suggested that he will not bring ENDA to the floor for an up-or-down vote. However, that statement is already drawing public criticism from some in the speaker’s own party.
In an interview with Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, GOP Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said, “I believe the Speaker should allow a vote on this bill. […] I believe that the American public wants to make sure people are not discriminated against.”
“With today’s vote in the Senate, Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, lead sponsors Senators Merkley and Kirk, and Senators Collins and Baldwin have shown us all what leadership looks like. Now, Speaker Boehner should take up the mantle of leadership and allow the House to join them.”
Separately, President Obama is also empowered to sign a long-pending executive order that would protect the employees of federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This order is not a silver bullet, and ENDA is vitally necessary after the order is signed. But the Human Rights Campaign has long argued that, by signing the order, President Obama can extend workplace protections to over 16 million American workers.
“We urge the House of Representatives to pass ENDA immediately, and we call on President Obama to send a clear message in support of workplace fairness by signing this executive order,” Griffin said.
We will have more commentary in the coming days on the nature of the religious exemptions in this bill, as many believe that they give a pass to the very people the bill is meant to protect Americans from.