GOP filibuster of ENDA defeated in the U.S. Senate

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) was 61-30 to end the GOP filibuster, with several supporters not even present to vote. Arizona's Sen. Jeff Flake voted in favor of filibustering this bill to death — shame on him. Sen. John McCain did not vote — probably too busy trying to find a television station that would interview him to make him feel important. He has his priorities. [Update: The Republic reports "McCain tweeted before the vote that he was taping an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."]

A final vote in the Senate could come as early as the end of this week. The question is what happens in the Tea-Publican controlled House, where the TanMan, Weeper of the House Jon Boehner, indicated on Monday that he will not bring ENDA up for a vote. The real queston is, "who is actually opposed to this bill?"

Robert Jones at the Washington Post reports, Most Republicans, evangelicals support ENDA:

With seven Republican senators and all 55 Democratic senators publicly on board,
it now seems likely that the Senate will debate and vote this week on
the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban employment
discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
If the bill moves forward, it would represent the newest effort since
the 1970s to address the issue and the first time since 1996 that the
Senate has given the legislation an up-or-down vote.

Although you would not guess it by the tepid support among most
Republican senators, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans
support workplace protections for gay and lesbian Americans.
Among younger Americans, a group Republicans candidates have struggled
to attract, support rises to 81 percent. And most striking is this:
majorities of both Republicans (60 percent) and Democrats (80 percent)
as well as majorities of every major religious group, including
six-in-ten (59 percent) white evangelical Protestants, favor workplace
protections for gay and lesbian people.

If ENDA passes, it will also mark the first time legislation has
explicitly included protections based on sexual orientation and gender
identity.  Although this gender identity provision has been a point of
contention among lawmakers in the past, rank-and-file Americans make no
significant distinctions between employment protections for gay and
lesbian Americans and transgender Americans.  When asked directly about
the inclusion of transgender Americans,
three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans—including majorities of
Republicans and conservative religious groups such as white evangelical
Protestants—also agree that Congress should pass laws to protect
transgender people from job discrimination.

* * *

If [House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)] intends to follow [his] constituents on this issue, their decision is a relatively straightforward one. According to PRRI’s Ohio Values Survey,
nearly seven-in-ten (68 percent) Ohio voters favor laws protecting gay
and lesbian people against job discrimination. Like Americans overall,
solid majorities of Ohio voters in both political parties and in every
major religious group support workplace nondiscrimination laws for gay
and lesbian people.

* * *

[O]ne thing is clear: if Republican representatives in either chamber fail
to back ENDA, it will be for reasons other than representing their
constituents’ views.

Rachel Laser at the Washington Post asks the pertinent question, Who would God discriminate against?:

While the political momentum is not what it should be, the faith
community has a more positive story to tell. An array of denominations,
faith organizations and faith leaders with differing views on same-sex
marriage and civil unions have joined to say employment discrimination
on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is wrong and ENDA
should be passed. Many senators are probably not aware that there is a
letter of support for ENDA from sixty faith groups, including ten
national faith denominations. The letter explicitly states:

“Our faith traditions hold different and sometimes
evolving beliefs about the nature of human sexuality and marriage as
well as gender identity and gender expression, but we can all agree on
the fundamental premise that every human being is entitled to be treated
with dignity and respect in the workplace.”

This group spans the gamut from Dr. Martin Luther King’s
denomination- the Progressive National Baptist Convention- to the
evangelical group Sojourners, to the Islamic Society of North America,
to mainline Christian denominations like the Methodists and
Presbyterians to the Reform and Conservative Jewish Movement.

In supporting ENDA, these faith leaders are in sync with their
members. A Public Religion Research Institute poll shows that 61 percent
of minority Protestants, 59 percent of white evangelical Protestants,
75 percent of white mainline Protestants, 76 percent of Catholics and 84
percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans support workplace
nondiscrimination for gays and lesbians.

[T]he U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is now in opposition to the bill
(and thus not aligned with American Catholics on this issue), in 2007
they were explicitly neutral on ENDA (and in support of the exact same
religious exemption it now contains). Also noteworthy is that the Church
of Latter Day Saints and the National Association of Evangelicals are
quiet on the bill this time. Other groups that take a robust
interpretation of religious liberty, such as the Orthodox Jews and
Seventh Day Adventists, have, while not supporting the bill, maintained
that the religious exemption meets their needs and stayed neutral on it.

Many faith groups feel comfortable supporting ENDA because it has a
broad religious exemption
. Specifically, ENDA has a religious exemption
that is wider in scope than that of Title VII or the Americans with
Disabilities Act, and is thought to be one of the broadest religious
exemptions in federal law. This is why some gay rights groups and the
ACLU have complained vociferously about the exemption.

A New York Times editorial explains their critique this way: “It is one
thing for religious groups to further their religious mission by
favoring people of their own faith in hiring, as Title VII of the 1964
Civil Rights Act permits. It is quite another to allow the firing of a
lesbian physician or transgender nurse when a hospital that is not
affiliated with a religious group happens to merge with an institution
that is.”

Many of the more progressive religious denominations and some
gay rights groups who are sympathetic to this critique are willing to
accept the broad religious exemption as a compromise because we want the
bill to be enacted into law and thereby protect the civil rights of
millions of Americans currently vulnerable to discrimination. This exact
same religious exemption was in the bill and passed muster in 2007,
when 35 Republicans including Paul Ryan and now-Senator Jeff Flake voted
for the bill on the House floor and it passed
.

Other religious institutional leaders are newly announcing their support for ENDA too . . .

Evangelical megachurch pastors are coming along too. Pastor Joel
Hunter, Senior Pastor of a 20,000 congregant white Evangelical church in
Northland Florida, who has opposed same-sex marriage, recently
expressed his support for ENDA this way: “There is no need to bring
sexuality into the workplace where it does not apply to one’s job
performance.  I can support the spirit of fairness in this bill as well
as its exemptions for religious organizations.”

The bill can be a blessing to our nation if the Senate leads the way in saying no to employment discrimination.

So other than the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and far-right political organizations that trade in "gay hating" as the raison d'être for their existence (such as Cathi Herrod's Center for Arizona Policy), who is actually opposed to this bill? Contact your congress critter and demand a vote on ENDA.

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