Nelson backs ENDA, leaving two Senate Democratic holdouts

Posted by Justin Snow
October 29, 2013 11:12 AM |

Sen. Bill Nelson became the latest to put his support behind the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on Monday, inching the LGBT-rights bill one vote closer toward securing Senate passage.

Thumbnail image for Bill_Nelson.jpgThe Florida Democrat's decision to sign on as ENDA's 56th co-sponsor Monday night leaves just two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin (W.V.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) — who have not backed the bill, which would prohibit most employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Bill Nelson joins a growing list of supporters dedicated to enacting common-sense legislation that protects workers from unjust discrimination in the workplace," the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. "We welcome his support and firmly believe that it’s indicative of the positive momentum this bill has as it heads to the Senate floor. We remain optimistic that the votes will be there when it matters."

Nelson's decision came the same day Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor to announce the chamber would take up ENDA before Thanksgiving. ENDA saw its first major movement in more than a decade on July 10 when the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee voted 15-7, with the support of three Republicans, to report the bill to the full Senate

Prior to the Senate's August recess, Nelson was still expressing concerns with aspects ENDA, particularly provisions that would protect transgender people.

"It's a long, involved conversation," Nelson told Metro Weekly in July. "It involves the question of insurance with regard to transgender, it involves the question of bathrooms on transgender, and so forth." Nelson's office did not respond to requests for comment on what convinced the senator to back ENDA. 

ENDA will also gain another supporter later this week following the swearing in of Democratic Senator-elect Cory Booker of New Jersey, leaving the bill just three votes shy of the 60 vote threshold needed for Senate passage.

Nelson's backing of ENDA refocuses attention on Manchin and Pryor, as well as several Republican senators advocates believe can be swayed to support ENDA. A spokesperson for Manchin told Metro Weekly the senator is still reviewing the bill. Pryor’s office did not respond to requests for comment. Both senators are part of a minority of senators who have not expressed support for same-sex marriage. Of the three previous Democratic holdouts, Pryor has long been considered the hardest get as he remains embattled in a tough re-election campaign.

[Photo: Bill Nelson. Credit: U.S. Senate.]

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