Monday, October 28, 2013


Soon, the Senate will vote on the Employment Non Discrimination Act, a bill that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who has been cosponsoring the bill since 1997, recently announced his plan to introduce the legislation for a vote during the current work period. With 54 co-sponsors (almost all Democratic and two Republican senators), the bill would add to legislation that makes discrimination illegal on the basis of race, sex, religion, color, nationality, age, and disability.

Meant to give members of the LGBT community protection under federal law, EDNA could also have larger implications for allowing women another outlet for seeking remedies to workplace discrimination. This law could be effective in helping lesbian and transgender women, who suffer from the double stigma of their sex and sexual orientation/transgender identity, seek a remedy for such discrimination. Currently, discriminating against individuals based on sexual orientation is illegal in only 22 states, and discriminating based on gender identity is illegal in 18. Thus, this law could have a large effect in states where such protection doesn't exist. 

ENDA has been introduced repeatedly, but was last voted upon in 2007, when it was approved by the House. Considering the bill has been around since 1997, it may be surprising that it hasn't already been passed or been called up for a vote since 2007, especially since Democrats have had control of the Senate since 2009. During 2009-2011, Democrats had control of both Houses of Congress, suggesting that the legislation could have been called up for a vote and passed while Democrats still had control over the agenda of both houses of Congress. Even though Democrats have control over the Senate's agenda, it seems surprising that the bill would be considered again now, when Republicans control the House and are unlikely to consider the bill.

The renewed interest in the bill could be due to a variety of factors, the most obvious being the increased popular support. After the recent decisions of the Supreme Court that supported the rights of LGBT individuals, it seems that public opinion may be shifting towards accepting legislation like ENDA. By substantively representing the changing beliefs of constituents, members of Congress may feel that shifting their support towards this bill would reflect the shift in overall public opinion. Especially for Democrats, supporting this legislation could be important in securing support from LGBT interest groups, whose scoring on their roll call votes could give them a boost amongst LGBT constituents, as well as constituents who support LGBT rights. 

Moreover, the bill is said to have some support from about six Republican senators, who may be attempting to reach across the aisle (or seem as if they are reaching across the aisle) to gain back some of the legitimacy lost through the controversial government shutdown dealings, represent the shifting public beliefs, and credit claim. These Republicans are mostly located in states that are more moderate, suggesting that they would not be potentially isolating very conservative constituents. 

Works cited:


  1. This seems like a good bill for moderate Republicans to support. It seems like the country is gradually becoming more accepting of the LGBT community and getting involved early on could pay dividends for Republicans who are willing to take the risk now. In my opinion, the Republicans who are supporting this bill are probably not as concerned about reaching across the aisle, but rather taking advantage of a political position that could help them electorally.

  2. I actually wrote my blog post on ENDA last night! I'd be very interested to see how the votes come out today. While I do agree that our country,and our government, is becoming more accepting of the LGBT community, this vote has had a lot of pressure put on it but the executive branch and outside groups. I agree with Brian in saying that this vote is probably a more strategic one for moderate Republicans than anything. It allows them a perfect opportunity to differentiate themselves in the coming election and set a precedent that Republicans can support socially liberal legislation.

  3. I think that moderate Republican support for this bill is an attempt by some Republicans to "rebrand". The Republican party's reputation often focuses on what they are opposed to, so this is a strong signal from Senate Republicans that the party can moderate on some critical social issues. Now that ENDA has passed the Senate with 64 votes, it may be a strong sign to members of the House that it's time to act on this, and not let it sit around for another 6 or 10 years. This is a strategy that has been employed by Democrats frequently during this Congress- pulling together more than 60 votes in an attempt to pressure the House into taking action. So far it has been quite unsuccessful and in some cases detrimental to the Democratic agenda, but hopefully this bill is innocuous enough that the House will be able to take action.