The Senate voted Thursday to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, landmark civil rights legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT individuals in the workplace.You'll note that Pennsylvania's very own Pat Toomey voted for the bill. We'll get back to him in a little bit.
The final vote was 64-32, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats. The Republican senators backing the legislation were cosponsors Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), along with Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
But what is this ENDA bill? You can read the Congressional Research Service summary here, if you like. Or, Ed O'Keefe has a more prose-worthy explanation here. O'Keefe writes:
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would ban employers from firing, refusing to hire or discriminating against workers or job applicants based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.Pointing out that:
Currently 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Seventeen states and the District also bar discrimination based on sexual identity. Maryland passed a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2001; Virginia has no laws regarding sexual orientation or gender identity on the books.ENDA is Federal legislation that would cover all the states (even Virginia).
So how does our friend Pat Toomey enter into this discussion?
He proposed an amendment whose stated purpose was to:
To strike the appropriate balance between protecting workers and protecting religious freedom.But in reality it would have expanded the "religious" exemptions so broadly as to effectively weaken the whole legislation. As Jonathan Tomari at Philly.com explains:
Under Toomey's plan, exemptions from the ban would cover organizations managed by a church or religious group, those formally affiliated with a particular religion, or those that teach a curriculum directed toward propagating a particular religion.Any expansion of the "religious" exemption means, of course, more LGBT employees being shown the door.
His amendment specifies that the exemption includes groups that don't primarily engage in religious work - for example, a school that teaches religion only a few hours a week, or a hospital affiliated with a religious group.
The amendment was voted down 43-55.
In spite of that, as we stated above, Toomey voted for ENDA. Good for you, Pat.
So how does it look in the House?
Not so good. From Sam Stein at the Huffington Post:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) affirmed on Monday morning that he would oppose a law that would prohibit discrimination against gay and lesbian employees in the workplace, citing the possibility that it would put a financial burden on businesses.Nearly complete BS, of course. Factcheck.org explains why:
"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.
House Speaker John Boehner announced his opposition to a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity with a statement from his spokesman saying the bill “will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.” But the facts suggest there’s not as much to these claims as Boehner lets on.But Boehner's got the House's Tea Party Caucus to deal with so "reality" as a concept to the Tea Party crowd is much more malleable than "reality" is in, well, reality.
Boehner’s office points to a Congressional Budget Office forecast that says the legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), would lead to a 5 percent bump in discrimination cases — which is about 5,000 new cases per year. But it does not say what percentage of them may be deemed “frivolous.”
A report released by the General Accounting Office in July found “relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity” in states that have already enacted laws prohibiting such discrimination. A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA found workplace complaints based on sexual orientation were made at about the same rate as complaints based on race or gender.
As for Boehner’s claim that ENDA would “cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” that may well be the outcome in some isolated cases, but the law specifically applies only to companies with 15 or more employees — which exempts nearly 90 percent of all small businesses (and nearly a third of those employed in businesses with under 500 employees).
And again millions of Americans will have to suffer for it.