The Senate mustered enough votes to get the Employment Non-Discrimination Act past a filibuster. Great news, right? Wrong. Once it was clear it would pass in the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner came out of the closet, so to speak, to announce that he opposes the bill, which will doom its passage in the House.
“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel told TPM in an email.
The statement came just hours before the LGBT rights legislation was expected to clear a key test vote in the Senate. Democrats believe they have 60 votes to break a filibuster and put the bill on a glide-path to passage in the upper chamber. But Boehner’s opposition suggests ENDA is going nowhere in the Republican-led House.
The Speaker has long opposed ENDA, and voted against it in 2007. The national sea change in public opinion for the cause has not changed that. “We have always believed this is covered by existing law,” said an aide to Boehner.
ENDA prohibits businesses from making employment decisions on the basis of a worker’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Social conservatives oppose the bill and Heritage Action, an influential conservative activist group, is whipping lawmakers to block it.
“The legislation would severely undermine civil liberties, increase government interference in the labor market, and trample on religious liberty,” said Heritage Action, announcing it will include the vote in its legislative scorecard. “ENDA would potentially discourage job creation because it would increase government interference in the labor market.”
By “existing law,” the Speaker is presumably speaking of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law. That and similar arguments were used in 1964 and 1965 by opponents of civil rights: Hey, there are all those Reconstruction amendments that guarantee that people won’t be denied the right to vote or drink from a water fountain. It was bullshit about civil rights then, and it’s bullshit about protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or identification now.
You can still be fired for being gay in a majority of the states.
If Mr. Boehnr truly believes the law should not be passed then he would allow the House to vote up or down on it. Instead he cowers behind “existing law” and the stinking corpse of “job killing” which, to him, is anything that doesn’t have a bottle of Scotch and a package of unmarked bills from Freedom Works attached to it. Or, as Elon James White noted at Balloon Juice, “Sounds like the same tired Republican defense against supporting equal rights for just about anyone but stodgy old straight white dudes. Got it.”
Map via JMG.