Liberal, openly gay columnist Frank Bruni makes some worthwhile observations about anti-gay prejudice and intransigence among GOP cultural conservatives, but felt the need to score added partisan points by ignoring the Democrats’ own failings. He writes:
…most states have never enacted laws protecting gay people from employment discrimination.
Federal legislation to that effect finally passed the Senate at the end of 2013, when the chamber was controlled by Democrats, but the Republican-led House never bothered to vote on the bill. And there’s no way that the current Congress will send something like it to President Obama for his signature.
OK, but you wouldn’t know from his accusation that the Democrats controlled both House and Senate from 2008-10, and the Employee Non-Discrimination Act never made it out of committee because, well, the Democratic-led House (and Senate) never bothered to vote on the bill.
Meanwhile, the first law the Democratic Congress enacted was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, supported by feminist groups.
There are interesting conclusions that could be drawn about the Democratic leadership’s decision not to spend political capital to pass ENDA despite having the votes, and why LGBT political lobbies didn’t push harder for it. But you can’t get there if you’re just interested in lambasting the GOP.
More. The argument that the GOP would have used Democratic votes for ENDA as a campaign issue so Democrats were forced into inaction is specious. ENDA enjoyed some GOP support, after all, and an anti-discrimination measure was supported by most Americans. Republican opposition didn’t derail Lilly Ledbetter (a bill that did far more for trial lawyers than working women, who already had statutory rights to equal pay for equal work).
Moreover, the claim that ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a better priority isn’t supported by the facts; the Democratic leadership was uninterested in moving on either ENDA or DADT repeal. The latter happened only at the end of 2010, when there was an eruption by LGBT bloggers and some activists not beholden to the Human Rights Campaign, as it became apparent Harry Reid was blocking a clean vote that could pass (with more GOP support than Democrats predicted). It was this upsurge of anger from the LGBT community, plus the vital intervention of Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Joe Lieberman, that finally pushed the vote to the Senate floor.
Sometime during the previous two years ENDA could have been moved, but the strategy was (as with immigration reform) not to pass a bill, but to keep the hope of future passage alive as a campaign issue that would help mobilize targeted voting blocs in the next election cycle.