The news that the Senate reached enough votes for a super majority (filibuster-proof) vote on the Employment Non Discrimination Act was good. I am delighted that at least a few Republicans actually saw the reason behind this law, and the injustice it will correct. However the ebullient comments from LGBT organizations and the breathless reporting from the new channels would have you believe that it will become the law of the land. After all, the President said he would sign it.
Wait just a darned minute; it still has to go through the House of Representatives. If you forgot that old cartoon from School House Rocks about how a bill becomes law? Yes all this celebration, and it is worth celebrating, is a bit premature, since the current makeup of the house, and specifically the Tea Party Republicans will not even let ENDA come to the floor much less to a vote.
Listening to Speaker John Boehner’s rhetoric, you would think ENDA would bring about the Apocalypse complete with plagues and horsemen. According to a spokesperson for the Speaker he believes, “this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.” Then he went on to assert the incredulous statement that these protections are already covered under law. Really? And this coming from a lawyer?
Here is a little lesson on the law from a non-lawyer to Speaker Boehner. Unless the protection is specifically spelled out and defined in excruciating detail in a law, it won’t hold up in court. Courts do not like vague and nebulous statutes. That is why ENDA was created. It specifically prohibits private employers with more than 15 employees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It exempts religious institutions who may decide that institutionalized hate and discrimination is part of their creed. Hey, it’s a free country, except if you are LGBT.
Boehner knows ENDA is key to brining full equality to LGBT and he also knows the Tea Party, who is in control of the GOP right now, won’t stand for it. He knows if he brings it to a vote he will probably lose his position as speaker, and therefore he won’t bring it to the floor.
I hear people say there might be enough votes to pass ENDA in the House, but I have seen absolutely no evidence of that, and the commentators who say it don’t offer any facts. The truth is, unless the small rabid right wing that has the House in its grip are not voted from office, there is no chance of ENDA going anywhere.
The cynic in me thinks that is why some GOP Senators felt safe in voting for it, knowing it was dead in the water. They can look reasonable without any repercussions. It’s perfect positioning for a Senator who is trying to look moderate while maintaining the hard line of the Tea Party.
So meanwhile the GOP is laughing as they watch LGBT advocates and allies applaud themselves for getting so far with ENDA. It is a laudable achievement, but ultimately the fate rests with a far-right fringe group who has the House in its grip. These folks have no incentive to pass ENDA. IN fact, doing so would most likely spell their demise back home in the sticks where their constituents cower in fear of the dangerous “gay agenda” still sends people running for their guns. Those same folks can feel comfort that they are not racist homophobic bigots, but “true patriots” who simply want to take the country back.
Back from what? Well mostly back from the rest of the country. These are the people who don’t understand that the days of white, straight, male privilege are over. They long for the America of the 1950s, a simpler idyllic time in their minds. Of course none of them experienced those glory days as gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or black or Asian or Hispanic or Jewish or anything other than white, straight and Protestant.
I lived through the 1950’s and 1960’s and that idyllic veneer was an illusion. Sadly, it’s the same illusion John Boehner is living in today.