Nevada GOP Senator Backs ENDA
Proponents of a gay rights bill gained crucial support in the Senate on Monday as a Nevada Republican announced he backed the measure because "discrimination must not be tolerated under any circumstance."
Hours before a test vote, Sen. Dean Heller expressed his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, joining all 55 members of the Democratic majority and four other Republican senators. Heller’s expected vote ensures that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will be able to collect the 60 votes necessary to move ahead on the legislation with the goal of passing it by week’s end.
"After listening to Nevadans’ concerns about this issue from a variety of viewpoints and after numerous conversations with my colleagues, I feel that supporting this legislation is the right thing to do," Heller said in a statement.
President Barack Obama called for Congress to pass the bill, the first major gay rights legislation since Congress voted to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military in December 2010.
In a message written for Huffingtonpost.com, Obama described employment discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender people as offensive and wrong.
"And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense," the president said.
Current federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin. But it doesn’t stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire workers solely because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The bill would bar employers with 15 or more workers from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions, including hiring, firing, compensation or promotion.
The bill faces strong opposition from conservative groups and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, making prospects for House passage unlikely.
Reiterating Boehner’s longstanding opposition, spokesman Michael Steel said Monday that Boehner "believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs."
The Faith and Freedom Coalition said in a statement Monday that the bill is "anti-family" and a threat to free enterprise, arguing that it will impose an additional burden on family-owned businesses with the possibility of costly litigation that will detract from job creation.