The Senate voted Monday to move forward with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, expanding protections for LGBT workers. ENDA had enough bipartisan support to advance in a cloture vote, 61 to 30, a good sign for those who hope to see it pass the Senate later this week. Seven Republicans also supported the measure.
"It's a mainstream American value that people shouldn't be judged by who they love or who they date," Rep. Jared Polis, one of seven openly gay House lawmakers, said Monday on The Last Word. "At work, and in your relationship with your boss and your coworkers, it's about..how effective you are and your efficiency. Frankly, Americans want to make sure that we have a fair country and that people aren't discriminated on the basis of something they can't help."
Passage of ENDA in the Senate is something anti-discrimination advocates have been waiting for since 1996, when it failed by one vote. In the 17 years since, the country has shifted dramatically on LGBT issues. Not only do a strong majority — 68% — support the protections guaranteed by ENDA, 8 in 10 Americans believe they already exist, according to a recent report done by Republican pollster Alex Lundry.
In an op-ed posted Sunday in the Huffington Post, President Obama urged lawmakers to pass ENDA for the sake of equality.
“Millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs -- not because of anything they've done, but simply because of who they are,” Obama wrote. “It's offensive. It's wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.”
Despite bipartisan support in the Senate, however, ENDA may face a roadblock in the House, where Speaker John Boehner has voiced opposition to the law through spokesman Michael Steel: “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”
As MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin suggested, Boehner’s opposition likely means that ENDA won’t see a vote in the House this year. Yet with growing popular support for the law, it’s unclear how long the GOP can hold out before the pressure becomes too great.
"It's important that we allow the American people in Congress in the House to have a vote on this," said LGBT rights activist Stuart Milk on The Last Word. "My final message to Speaker Boehner is ether allow the process to move forward or get out of the way."