Portman struggles with ENDA support


When the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was reintroduced a couple of weeks ago, proponents were relieved to see some bipartisan support. The proposal already has 166 co-sponsors in the House and 34 in the Senate, the vast majority of whom are Democrats, but the bill has also received support from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

But what about Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who endorsed marriage equality in March? If he believes gay Americans can be legally married, surely he would support laws to prevent gay Americans from being discriminated against in the workplace, right?

It’s apparently more complicated than that. The Ohio Republican sat down with BuzzFeed’s John Stanton last night and said he “totally” supports the “concept” behind ENDA. Portman added, “[T]here should be no discrimination and there ought to be a law in place, in my view.”

But then he backed off, saying he believes the “current version of ENDA … could be heavily litigated the way it is written” – though I’m not sure what that means – and then expressed concerns about religious liberty.

“I’m also a strong believer in religious freedom and I think an entity that has certain religious tenets should not be required to change those tenets because of this law or others,” Portman added.

For the record, ENDA exempts religious organizations. Indeed, the bill specifically says:

“This Act shall not apply to a corporation, association, educational institution or institution of learning, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pursuant (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.) to section 702(a) or 703(e)(2) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 2000e-1(a), 2000e-2(e)(2)).”

So, what is Portman talking about? At this point, despite his call on marriage equality, the senator appears to be relying on a made-up concern as an excuse to oppose a good bill.