With the support of a handful of Republican senators, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, it’s likely that the most significant piece of gay rights legislation passed by Congress since it repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, will pass out of the Senate next week.
All of the Senate Democrats support the bill, including Sen. Mark Begich.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is crafted to mirror Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, though unlike that act, it has certain religious and small-business exemptions.
A version of the bill passed the Democratic controlled House in 2007, but the Senate filibustered it.
The landscape has changed since then, and it’s likely that the bill has enough support to stave off a similar filibuster. Murkowski is one of our Republican senators supporting the bill. The other three are Mark Kirk from Illinois, and Orrin Hatch from Utah, and Susan Collins from Maine.
One more vote, and they get to 60, which is the magic filibuster-proof number. Four Republicans are said to be wavering: Rob Portman (Ohio), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Dean Heller (Nev.)
In recent years, Murkowski has been an advocate for gay rights. Some say that such a stance will hurt her reelection chances, particularly in the Republican primary, where she’ll likely be challenged.
But a lot can happen between now and then, and perhaps because of the evolution of support of gay rights, opposition to this bill hasn’t been nearly as strong as with other bills dealing with the issue. The Family Research Council has apparently decided not to expend political capital on the fight. The political action arm of the Heritage Foundation, Heritage Action, is urging members to vote against the act. They say that it would “severely undermine civil liberties, increase government interference in the labor market, and trample on religious liberty.” But it appears that they aren’t putting too much time into it.
Although the bill is expected to die in the Republican-controlled House, gay rights advocates think that they have a winning issue here, and plan to use congressional members’ votes against them in the mid-term elections.
It’s unclear where Rep. Don Young stands on the issue. His spokesman did not return a phone call requesting comment. In any case, his appears safe, and a vote either way probably won’t change that.
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