A letter from several Republican members of Congress today urges House Speaker John Boehner to immediately allow a vote on the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar discrimination in hiring decisions based on sexual orientation:
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.
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 onrace, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 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…
As Justin Snow of Washington, D.C. LGBT news publication Metro Weekly reports, this letter was signed by six of the eight Republican co-sponsors of ENDA in the House of Representatives:
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…
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.
…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.
It's simple arithmetic that ENDA would be much easier to pass in the present lame-duck session of Congress than after January, when Republicans will take control of the U.S. Senate and expand their House majority by several seats. That's why these Republican ENDA cosponsors are pushing as hard as they can to get the provision attached to anything they can–including the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Congress is working hard to pass before adjournment for the holidays.
But as Snow reports, only six of the eight GOP sponsors of ENDA signed the letter. Who didn't sign, you ask?
Reps. Michael Grimm (N.Y.) and Mike Coffman (Colo.) did not sign the letter.
Now, Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island is facing a criminal investigation over campaign finance violations and tax fraud despite winning re-election last month. So you could reasonably see how Grimm might be indisposed to make waves within the GOP caucus. But what about Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado? Coffman's decision to cosponsor ENDA last April was a major surprise after his longtime stand against any protection for LGBT Americans. Prior to that, Coffman had campaigned strongly against marriage equality in Colorado, voted against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and even served as state chairman for notoriously anti-gay Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign. Coffman's change of heart of ENDA was, as Politico reported at the time, easily attributable to political motives:
The Colorado Republican has reversed positions on immigration and abortion in recent months as he tries to fend off an challenge from Democrat Andrew Romanoff in Colorado’s competitive sixth district.
And…that election is now over. We don't yet know what reason Coffman may have given to refuse to sign this letter calling for an ENDA fast-track, but the effect is the same whatever his excuse: legislation that Coffman claims to support, and earned him significant political credit for supporting, will become much harder to pass when the next Congress convenes in January.
And that appears to be just fine with Mike Coffman.