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Posts for November, 2013

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.

ENDA Passes Senate Cloture

Jim Burroway

November 4th, 2013

The Senate has voted 61-30 to invoke cloture on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), setting up what appears to be its assured passage for a final Senate vote on Wednesday. Seven Republicans joined 54 Democrats in voting for cloture. The seven GOP ayes were: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Mark Kirk (IL), Susan Collins (ME), Orin Hatch (UT), Dean Heller (NV), Rob Portman (OH), and Pat Toomey (PA). Sens. Kirk and Collins were co-sponsors. Heller announced his support earlier today. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK) had voiced her support for ENDA but didn’t cast a vote today. Sens. Ayotte and Portman were a last-minute additions. Portman’s son was particularly happy to see his dad’s vote:

Update: Sen. Kirk, who suffered a stroke in January 2012, broke his silence for his first Senate Floor Speech since returning:

“I have been silent for the past two years due to a stroke,” Kirk said. “I’ve risen to speak because I believe so passionately in… ENDA.”