US Senate Passes ENDA

Jim Burroway

November 7th, 2013

In a landmark 64-32 bipartisan vote, U.S. Senate gave its approval to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Fifty-four Democrats were joined by ten Republicans to support the measure: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME, cosponsor), Jeff Flake (AZ), Orrin Hatch (UT), Dean Heller (NV), Mark Kirk (IL, cosponsor), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), and Pat Toomey (PA). Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) was absent due to family reasons.

ENDA now includes a significantly broad set of religious exemptions. As The New York Times pointed out in its criticism of the bill last weekend:

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act, however, has a significant flaw — a terribly broad religious exemption. The exemption would extend beyond churches and other houses of worship to any religiously affiliated institution, like hospitals and universities, and would allow those institutions to discriminate against people in jobs with no religious function, like billing clerks, cafeteria workers and medical personnel.

The exemption — which was inserted to appease some opponents who say the act threatens religious freedom — is a departure from the approach of earlier civil rights laws. And though the law would protect millions of workers from bias, the exemption would give a stamp of legitimacy to the very sort of discrimination the act is meant to end.

The Times said that “Any attempt to further enlarge the exemption should be rejected,” but an amendment yesterday offered by Sens. Portman and Ayotte (with McCain co-sponsoring) did just that. Their amendment reads:

A religious employer’s exemption under this Act shall not result in any action by a Federal government agency, or any state or local government agency that receives Federal funding or financial assistance, to penalize or withhold licenses, permits, certifications, accreditation, contracts, grants, guarantees, tax-exempt status, or any benefits or exemptions from that employer, or to prohibit the employer’s participation in programs or activities sponsored by that Federal, state, or local government agency. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to invalidate any other federal, state, or local law or regulation that otherwise applies to an employer exempt under this section.”

That amendment was approved yesterday. Today, the Senate rejected another amendment by Sen. Tooley that would have expanded the scope of employers exempted from the Act.

The bill now goes to the House, where House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has already said that he opposes the law, making it unlikely that he will bring it to a vote. Many observers believe that if it did come to a vote, there would be enough bipartisan support to ensure its passage.

Ben In Oakland

November 7th, 2013

A huge HURRAH!

I wonder why the Boner won’t allow it to go to the house floor for a vote?
Is he afraid he might lose? Is he so unsure of his leadership after the shutdown that anything that challenges it might be too scary for him? I can’t think of another reason.

Anybody?

Nathaniel

November 7th, 2013

He seems resistant to bringing anything progressive to the floor that might actually win. If I am not mistaken, the House rules were recently changed to give him 100% control over what comes to the floor, allowing his TEA party string pullers to control what comes to the floor, even if it would have majority support.

F Young

November 7th, 2013

Personally, I hope the bill fails in the House. The religious exemptions are completely unacceptable.

The exemptions would allow religiously affilated institutions that are largely taxpayer-funded, like hospitals, schools, universities and adoption agencies, to discriminate against gay taxpayers, and to confer tax deductions to anti-gay donors, while gays are legally required to pay taxes to fund the institutions.

Why is no one arguing that gays should get their own tax exemption so they are not forced to support anti-gay groups?

David Benkof

December 7th, 2013

I have a new take on ENDA – that it should be rewritten to include everybody, not just LGBT people. It’s published in The Hill, a paper read by man Congressmembers and their staffs. Here it is:

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/civil-rights/192238-an-enda-for-everyone

Ben in Oakland

December 7th, 2013

Why am I not surprised that you would be more or less against employment discrimination protections for gay people?

Do you have some data supporting the idea that unemployed people have a history of being discriminated against as a group because they are unemployed?

dale carpenters claims that employment discrimination laws encourage frivolous lawsuits is just that, a claim. it then, he is a white man and has a job.

How about we do both? Protect gay and trans people now, and try to find a solution to the problem you claim exists. Or better yet, from a “conservative” point of view, let’s just get rid of all employment discrimination laws.

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