Senate passes ENDA

The landmark civil rights bill's fate in the House of Representatives remains uncertain

Topics: enda, Employee Non-Discrimination Act, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, lgbtq rights, Civil Rights, LGBT Rights,

By a vote of 64-32, the Senate passed on Thursday the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, a landmark civil rights bill that would make it illegal for businesses with 15 or more employees to make hiring decisions based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

Despite the bill’s passage in the upper chamber, however, its future in the House of  Representatives looks uncertain — at best. Speaker of the House John Boehner recently reiterated his opposition to the bill, claiming it would lead to “frivolous litigation” and would hurt small businesses.

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also confirmed that there were at present no plans in the House to hold a vote on the measure.

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“The bill is currently not scheduled in the House,” said spokesman Rory Cooper. “I hope Majority Leader Reid soon addresses the dozens of House-passed bills that have been ignored in the Senate that create jobs, improve education and create opportunity while Americans struggle to find a good-paying job.”

Before the final vote, Democratic supporters likened the bill to the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and called on Boehner to bring it to a vote.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters that the GOP will be “sending their party straight to oblivion” if they refuse to bring the legislation up for a vote in the House.

Alluding to past political figures that stood in the way of discrimination-ending laws, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois warned Boehner to “think about their place in history today.”

The Senate bill attracted some additional GOP support after Reid allowed amendments to further ensure that religious organizations — along with the United States military — would be exempted.

One amendment from Republican Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was adopted Wednesday by voice vote. That measure would prevent federal, state and local governments from retaliation against groups exempted from the new law.

An amendment authored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., which would have exempted groups that don’t primarily engage in religious work but have an affiliation with a particular faith, failed.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

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