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ENDA's opponents fall silent

We talked yesterday about a key Senate committee easily approving the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Though the final vote was 15 to 7, the bill enjoyed bipartisan support.

For those who support civil rights and oppose discrimination, the vote offered new hope that ENDA might have enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster on the Senate floor. But while we wait for that, Chris Geidner noted something interesting about the developments in committee yesterday.

The opposition to LGBT rights, a regular part of politics in the not-so-distant past, was given no voice as a Senate committee voted 15-7 in favor of legislation that would ban anti-LGBT job discrimination by most employers across the country.There remain wide swaths of the country where virulent anti-LGBT attitudes control the dialogue, but the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee provided an unexpected view Wednesday into what the next phase of LGBT rights battle could look like.No one spoke in opposition to the bill....

If you've been to a committee vote or watched one on C-SPAN, you know this is pretty unusual. Ordinarily, unless a bill has unanimous support, opponents offer some kind of rationale to explain why they don't like the legislation. On culture-war measures, we generally hear quite a bit of rhetoric about social mores and the decline of civilization.

But yesterday, there was total silence from the right. There were seven Republican votes to allow anti-gay employment discrimination to continue, but it appears the arguments against ENDA are so poor, they were not shared publicly. (Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander was the only ENDA opponent to attend the vote; he brought six proxy votes with him against the bill.)

This only leaves us to speculate as to why there was so much GOP opposition to the anti-discrimination measure. Maybe it's simple anti-gay animus; perhaps there's some odd federalism argument lurking somewhere; maybe Republicans are terrified of criticism from the party's extremist base.

Regardless, I'm glad to see ENDA pass, and I'm heartened by the fact that nary a discouraging word was uttered about the proposal. When anti-gay voices literally fall silent on Capitol Hill, and no one is there to push their views, it's a positive development.