The Senate hit the magic number of 60 on Monday morning when Republican Dean Heller of Nevada said that supporting the measure was “the right thing to do.” But at vote time, two of the supporters of the bill, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D.-MO.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R.-AK), were on planes and unavailable for the vote so Sen. Susan Collins (R.-ME) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D.-OR) began lobbying Republicans to make up for the shortfall. (All 55 Senate Democrats had signed on in support previously.) In the end, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who has a gay son and had already come out for marriage equality, agreed to support the bill, along with Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois had already signalled that they would vote to approve the bill.
So, assuming McCaskill and Murkowski would have supported it, that’s 9 Republicans for LGBT employment protections.
One of them, GOP Senator Mark Kirk, gave his first floor speech since a debilitating stroke in 2012 in favor of the bill:
“I have been silent for the past two years due to a stroke, under two years ago. I have risen to speak because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute. This is not a major change to law. I would say it is already the law in 21 states. I think it’s particularly appropriate for an Illinois Republican to speak on behalf of this measure, in the true tradition of Everett McKinley Dirksen and Abraham Lincoln — men who gave us the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 13th amendment to the Constitution. With that, I would suggest the absence of a quorum.”
Melanie Nathan at O Blog Dee O Blog Da thinks the bill is flawed:
Earlier in the year, NCLR, The Transgender Law Center and others noted: While we applaud the progress that has been made, we stand united in expressing very grave concerns with the religious exemption in ENDA. It could provide religiously affiliated organizations – far beyond houses of worship – with a blank check to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people. Some courts have said that even hospitals and universities may be able to claim the exemption; thus, it is possible that a religiously affiliated hospital could fire a transgender doctor or a religiously affiliated university could terminate a gay groundskeeper. It gives a stamp of legitimacy to LGBT discrimination that our civil rights laws have never given to discrimination based on an individual’s race, sex, national origin, age, or disability. This sweeping, unprecedented exemption undermines the core goal of ENDA by leaving too many jobs, and LGBT workers, outside the scope of its protections.
Over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan looks at the case for ENDA.
[T]he core of the debate is about whether employers should have the right to determine whether their employees can be out in the workplace. It’s about replacing individual control over one’s sexual orientation and gender identity in the place where most Americans spend the vast bulk of their day with employer control. This can’t be squared with a concern for individual rights. The employee-employer relationship grants the employer immense amounts of power over their workers, who depend on their boss’ good will for their livelihood. Allowing employers power to fire employees who come out of the closet, full stop, subjects LGBT employees to immense coercive pressure. Their most basic right to conscience, the right to express a core part of their identity, is obliterated.
But it may not matter. Before a full Senate vote has even been taken, the King of No has already nixed the idea of a vote in the house.
Edge Boston reports:
But as the good news came in, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Monday that he would oppose the law, claiming that it could be financially destructive for businesses across America, the Huffington Post reports. “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in a statement.
As Rachel Maddow often notes, this is the least productive house in our Nation’s history.