The Senate was poised Thursday to vote on final passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that bars workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill squeaked through a dramatic 61-30 Senate test vote on Monday. Seven Republicans joined the chamber’s 53 Democrats and two independents in supporting the measure.
The measure is the most significant piece of legislation involving gay rights since Congress repealed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving in the military.
It’s been subject of intense lobbying by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and opponents who charge that it would lead to frivolous job discrimination lawsuits and gender-reassignment surgeries being covered by employer-sponsored health insurance plans.
“We’ll use every effort to stop the bill in the House,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. “I really don’t see this moving in the House.”
Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said his group and other gay rights advocates are already lobbying members of the House of Representatives for their support.
“We’ve been speaking with a number of House Republicans for months now about supporting ENDA,” Angelo said.
Still, ENDA faces an uphill fight in the lower chamber. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced his opposition to the bill earlier in the week, saying through a spokesman that “this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially business jobs.”
In September 2007, the House passed ENDA on a 235-184 vote. Thirty-five Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chair of the House Budget Committee and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, voted for it. However, the measure died in the Senate.
Despite Boehner’s opposition this year, ENDA supporters feel the aftermath of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections may help their chances in the House.
A post-election autopsy commissioned by the Republican National Committee noted increased societal and political acceptance towards LGBT issues by the voting public.
“Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment of gay rights,” the Republican report called the “Growth and Opportunity Project” stated. “And for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.”
The House bill has 193 co-sponsors thus far including five Republicans – Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Florida, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Jon Runyan of New Jersey, and Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna of New York.