John McCain worried ENDA will lead to "reverse discrimination"

The Arizona senator is still on the fence when it comes to the landmark civil rights bill

Published October 30, 2013 3:25PM (EDT)

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would criminalize workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, is set to get a vote in the Senate sometime before Thanksgiving, but while the support of 57 Democrats (and Independent Bernie Sanders) seems likely, it still falls short of a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

In an effort to push that number over the top, advocates and supporters of the bill have focused on a handful of Republican senators, including Arizona's John McCain. But McCain has shown some resistance to supporting the bill, telling the Huffington Post that he worries it might inspire "reverse discrimination."

Asked by the Huffington Post to explain his reticence, McCain listed a series of questions he'll have to answer before he decides whether to support the bill: "Whether it imposes quotas, whether it has reverse discrimination, whether it has the kinds of provisions that really preserve equal rights for all citizens or, like for example, busing. Busing was done in the name of equality. Busing was a failure. Quotas were a failure. A lot of people thought they were solutions. They weren't. They bred problems."

More from the Huffington Post:

ENDA does not institute quotas, reverse discrimination or busing. Federal law already makes it illegal to discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, sex, nationality, religion, age or disability. ENDA would simply make sure that LGBT individuals aren't singled out for special treatment.

"ENDA expressly prohibits quotas and the senator is mistaken on that aspect of the law," said Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work, which is lobbying for ENDA. He said his group has already met with McCain's office on the legislation and has a follow-up meeting later this week, where they will emphasize the section of the law that bans quotas.

From Section 4 of the legislation:

The legislation also prohibits what McCain referred to as "reverse discrimination," saying it's illegal to retaliate against someone who may oppose the ENDA provisions:

Last week, McCain's wife, Cindy, signed a Human Rights Campaign postcard urging her husband to back ENDA.

Note: This post originally stated that ENDA had a built-in safeguard against 'reverse discrimination.' This is not true and the sentence in question has been removed.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

MORE FROM Elias Isquith

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Cindy Mccain Employment Non-discrimination Act Enda John Mccain Lgbtq Lgbtq Rights The Huffington Post