Six Republican supporters of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act urged House Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on the LGBT-rights bill as part of a broader legislative package in a letter sent Wednesday.
“As the 113th Congress draws to a close, we respectfully encourage you to support inclusion of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a commonsense piece of legislation to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as part of any available legislative vehicle including the National Defense Authorization Act,” the letter states.
The letter was signed by six of ENDA’s eight Republican cosponsors in the House. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fl.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Charlie Dent (Penn.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.) and Jon Runyan (N.J.) attached their names to the letter. Reps. Michael Grimm (N.Y.) and Mike Coffman (Colo.) did not sign the letter.
Previously, Dent, Gibson and Ros-Lehtinen have articulated a strategy that would attach the legislation as an amendment to a broader defense authorization bill.
“Here in the United States we value the quality of an individual’s work over who they are. We already protect individuals from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” the letter continues. “ENDA is necessary for fellow Americans who do not enjoy these same protections. In 29 states, an estimated four million workers can be legally fired because of their sexual orientation. Standing up for the individual liberty of workers is the right thing to do. No one should be denied a job, denied a promotion, or fired because of whom they are.”
For more than a year, ENDA, which would prohibit most employers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, has been blocked by leadership of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Boehner himself has voiced his opposition to the bill, which he has said is unnecessary. In November of last year, the Senate approved ENDA 64-32 with the support of ten Republicans — the most Senate Republicans to ever vote for a piece of gay rights legislation, let alone one that protects transgender Americans.
“The LGBT community very much appreciates the support of ENDA’s Republican co-sponsors. ENDA has always been among the most bipartisan of issues,” stated Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign.
Despite long odds, several LGBT-rights organizations, particularly those focused on winning support among Republican lawmakers, are continuing lobbying efforts on ENDA until the 114th Congress is sworn in next month. And although time is running out, advocates say the public urging to act by fellow Republicans firmly places responsibility with Boehner.
“This letter makes it clear that the ball is now in Speaker Boehner’s court,” Sainz continued. “The Speaker has the power to reflect the consensus opinion of a majority of Americans that support workplace protections by immediately bringing ENDA to the floor for a vote. If he did that, ENDA would pass and be law by the end of the week. Let’s see what the Speaker does.”
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