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December 18, 2014

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March 18, 2014

Lawmakers Push Executive Order Banning LGBT Discrimination by Contractors

merkley 109 112113 445x304 Lawmakers Push Executive Order Banning LGBT Discrimination by Contractors

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Nearly 200 Democratic lawmakers have written to President Barack Obama seeking an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in employment practices.

The letter, which Democratic caucus members on both sides of the Capitol have signed on to, lists Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado as the first two signatories.

“An executive order covering LGBT employees would be in line with a bipartisan, decades-long commitment to eradicating taxpayer-funded discrimination in the workplace. In 1941, President Roosevelt prohibited discrimination in defense contracts on the bases of race, creed, color, or national origin,” the lawmakers write. “In subsequent executive orders, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson expanded these protections to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to discriminate.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:44 p.m.

November 7, 2013

Senate Passes Gay Employment Rights Bill

enda 04 072810 445x309 Senate Passes Gay Employment Rights Bill

In 2010, gay rights activists were arrested for staging a sit-in designed to pressure Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Three years later, the Senate passed it. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate on Thursday approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in a tempered win for gay rights advocates who still need a reluctant, GOP-controlled House to take up and pass the bill.

In a bipartisan vote, 64 senators supported the ENDA legislation, championed in the Senate by Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon. The bill, if it were to become law, would set a federal non-discrimination standard to ensure that private employers cannot fire employees based on their sexual orientation or identity.

Ten Republicans joined all Democrats to pass the gay rights bill, while 32 Republicans voted against the measure. Few opponents rose to speak against the bill, however. As of Wednesday evening, no one had risen to speak in opposition. Sen. Dan Coats was the first to do so on Thursday morning. He raised concerns about protections for religious institutions who believe same sex relationships are sinful.

Republicans voting for the bill included Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio and John McCain of Arizona.

This year has been a significant one for gay rights advocates, as the Supreme Court reversed the Defense of Marriage Act — meaning that a marriage certificate for a gay couple in one state must be recognized in all — and several more states have passed gay marriage measures. Full story

By Meredith Shiner Posted at 2:22 p.m.

The Best Floor Moments from the ENDA Debate (Video)

Following a key procedural vote Monday bringing up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for a vote today, the Senate is set to vote this afternoon to prevent discrimination by employers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Watch Roll Call’s best moments from Senate floor debate this week:

As of Wednesday evening, no opponents of the measure had spoken on the floor. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., became the first member to do so Thursday morning. Coats expressed concern about protections for religious institutions that are opposed to same-sex relationships.

Radio Silence From ENDA Opponents on Senate Floor

There’s one thing that hasn’t been heard on the Senate floor as the chamber debates legislation to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation: any opposition.

Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., noted the radio silence from senators opposed to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act during his own floor speech on Tuesday.

“I searched the Congressional Record of yesterday to look for one statement in opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. There is not one. There was a specific opportunity given for anyone opposed to that measure to stand and speak,” Durbin said. “Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa supported it. He spoke eloquently from this desk yesterday before the vote, and then time was allocated to those in opposition. No one stood to speak. But then 30 voted against it.”

Full story

November 4, 2013

7 Republicans Lift ENDA Past Filibuster (Updated)

kirk110413 445x295 7 Republicans Lift ENDA Past Filibuster (Updated)

Before the Senate procedural vote on ENDA, Kirk delivered his first floor speech since suffering from a stroke almost two years ago. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:49 p.m. | The Senate cleared the first procedural hurdle Monday on legislation prohibiting employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The Senate agreed on a 61-30 vote to bring up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, championed in the Senate by Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Seven Republicans joined all present Democrats in favor. GOP senators who supported moving forward with the bill included Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

With supporters Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, not present, the vote initially appeared as if it would fall short. The drama was heightened by a small number of Republicans concerned about religious exemptions in the bill.

Collins called Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., into the GOP cloakroom to broker a deal to get the needed votes, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide. And with supporters hovering one vote shy of the 60 needed, Portman and Toomey emerged to provide the 60th and 61st votes.

Portman secured an agreement with Democrats to receive votes on two of his amendments to the legislation, an aide confirmed. One of the amendments, which Merkley said is also backed by Ayotte, would reinforce the religious exemption language to ensure that religious organizations would not be burdened unduly by the law. Merkley said he would support the Portman-Ayotte measure. Full story

By Meredith Shiner Posted at 6:32 p.m.

Kirk Makes First Floor Speech Since Stroke on ENDA (Video)

Nearly two years after suffering a stroke, Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., on Monday made his first speech on the Senate floor since December 2011.

Kirk, who underwent rehabilitation for more than 11 months before returning to the Senate in January, took the floor in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prevent discrimination by employers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

By JM Rieger Posted at 6:22 p.m.
LGBT, Republicans, Videos

McConnell, Paul Want ‘Right to Work’ Law on ENDA

mcconnell 304 102913 445x297 McConnell, Paul Want Right to Work Law on ENDA

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Kentucky’s GOP senators hope a national “right to work” law can piggyback on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights bill the Senate is likely to take up this week.

The amendment was filed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and backed by Sen. Rand Paul. It’s first in line for consideration, assuming the Senate votes as expected Monday evening to move forward with debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

To be sure, the first amendment filed to legislation on the Senate floor is hardly a guarantee of consideration, but it can carry more weight when the minority leader is the one behind it.

Right-to-work laws at the state level generally prohibit unions and employers from entering into contracts that force all employees join unions at their workplaces.

Heller Will Provide 60th Vote for ENDA, but House Action Is Unlikely (Updated)

NoPay 02 012313 232x335 Heller Will Provide 60th Vote for ENDA, but House Action Is Unlikely (Updated)

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:49 a.m. | Sen. Dean Heller announced Monday morning that he supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, meaning that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights measure is all but certain to have the 60 votes needed to thwart a filibuster.

“After listening to Nevadans concerns about this issue from a variety of viewpoints and after numerous conversations with my colleagues, I feel that supporting this legislation is the right thing to do,” Heller said in a statement.

The Senate is set to take a test vote on the legislation on Monday evening.

The Nevada Republican highlighted the existence of a similar law on the books in his home state.

Full story

October 30, 2013

Manchin Comes Out for ENDA

Sen. Joe Manchin III became the last Senate Democratic holdout to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act Wednesday, CQ Roll Call has confirmed.

The West Virginia Democrat apparently told The New York Times that he will vote yes when the bill comes before the chamber, as soon as next week.

CQ Roll Call asked Manchin Tuesday and Wednesday morning about his position, but the senator’s office said he had not yet made a decision.

His support gets Senate Democratic leaders very close to the 60 votes they need to beat back an expected filibuster.

The bill now appears to have the backing of 58 lawmakers — including the entire 54-member Democratic caucus and four Republicans. When Sen.-elect Cory Booker, D-N.J., is sworn in Thursday, the Senate will be just one vote way from overcoming a procedural blockade.

On Tuesday, Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Bill Nelson of Florida came out in favor of the measure.

Meredith Shiner contributed to this post.

By Emily Pierce Posted at 11:42 a.m.
LGBT, Uncategorized

October 29, 2013

Pryor Will Vote for ENDA, Report Says

Sen. Mark Pryor’s office has told an Arkansas blogger that the senator will support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it comes up for a vote in the Senate, possibly as soon as next week.

Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times reported Tuesday evening that a staffer for the Arkansas Democrat confirmed that Pryor would vote “yes” on ENDA. The bill would bar employment discrimination because of sexual orientation.

If the report is true, the only Senate Democrat who has not signaled support for the measure is West Virginian Joe Manchin III. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill earlier Tuesday. Fifty-three members of the Democratic caucus and four Republicans have now signaled their support for the measure.

The measure will likely still have to overcome an attempted filibuster. Senate Democratic leaders have not yet nailed down the 60 votes needed to beat back such a blockade, but Pryor certainly gets them closer to that goal. The swearing-in Thursday of newly elected New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker is also likely to help with the count.

October 28, 2013

ENDA Vote Could Come Next Week

merkley 045 061113 445x296 ENDA Vote Could Come Next Week

Merkley has spearheaded a bill to protect gays and lesbians from employment discrimination. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In what could be a major breakthrough for gay rights legislation, the Senate could vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as early as next week, according to a Senate Democratic aide.

The bill, which passed out of committee 15-7, would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Three Republicans on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted with Democrats in July to send the legislation to the full Senate. The gay rights bill, spearheaded by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., currently has 53 co-sponsors. Backers of the bill are “confident” they can get 60 votes to break a procedural filibuster, given the bipartisan vote out of committee, the Democratic aide said.

“I thank Majority Leader Reid for committing to bring ENDA to the floor this work period,” Merkley said in a statement. “Americans understand that it’s time to make sure our LGBT friends and family are treated fairly and have the same opportunities. Now it’s time for our laws to catch up. People should be judged at work on their ability to do the job, period.”

With Sen.-elect Cory Booker, D-N.J., being sworn in Thursday, the bill will be another vote closer to passage. So far 51 Democrats and four Republicans have announced their support.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the first Senate Republican to endorse gay marriage, has yet to support ENDA.

July 10, 2013

Portman, Merkley to Discuss ENDA

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will meet next week with Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to discuss the legislation for the first time, CQ Roll Call has learned.

Portman, the first Republican senator to support gay marriage, has not yet come out in favor of the bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination against LGBT employees. The legislation passed out of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday with the support of three GOP members and is expected to get a full Senate vote after August recess.

Portman told CQ Roll Call in a brief interview that he will meet next week with Merkley and that contrary to some reports, he had not done so already.

“I’m adamantly opposed to discrimination in the workplace against people who are gay. So I have no philosophical concerns with this legislation at all. My concern with it is one, some of the policy issues, like the religious liberty stuff, and because I am not on the [HELP] committee, I have not been in a position to look through it yet.

Full story

3 Republicans Vote to Advance ENDA

Three Republicans joined all Democrats to advance a bill to bar discrimination against gays and lesbians at work on Wednesday, adding momentum to a measure that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to bring to the Senate floor.

Republicans Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah joined Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, 15-7.

The legislation, championed by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., has more than 50 co-sponsors but likely would need 60 votes to break a procedural filibuster. Backers are even closer to that magic number after Wednesday, however, as Hatch and Murkowski are new supporters. Other Republicans who are considered potential supporters include Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who voted for the measure as a House member.

Three Democrats — Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — have so far declined to sign on to the bill.

Though Reid has not scheduled a Senate vote, sources tracking the bill have indicated since it was introduced in May that it likely would get fall floor time.

July 9, 2013

Hatch May Support ENDA

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, is leaning toward supporting legislation extending employment protections to gays and lesbians, his office confirmed.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on which Hatch sits, will consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on Wednesday. The legislation already has Republican backing from Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine. Hatch told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that while he still has some reservations about the measure, he is inclined to support the bill spearheaded by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

“My tendency is to vote for the bill,” Hatch told The Huffington Post. He added, “I have concerns about it but I also think that the language in there is really good language.”

He said that his remaining concerns had to do with exemptions for religious organizations — a contention made previously by other Republicans, such as Rob Portman of Ohio, who supports gay marriage but has said he is disinclined to sign on to ENDA.

Full story

By Meredith Shiner Posted at 7:16 p.m.
LGBT, Republicans

July 8, 2013

LGBT Immigrant Rights Gets Second Chance, Seven Weeks Later

Barely two months after ducking a politically difficult gay rights vote during the immigration debate, nearly two dozen Democratic senators jumped onto a letter urging Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to make changes that would permit gay Americans to sponsor their foreign spouses for green cards.

The letter, signed by 22 senators, was sent in response to last month’s Supreme Court decision to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Before the ruling, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., attempted to amend the bipartisan “gang of eight” immigration bill with a provision that would have allowed gay foreign spouses to get green cards.

But at the time Leahy offered it, even ardent gay rights supporters urged the chairman to withhold the proposal.

“This is the wrong moment,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said at the May 21 markup of the immigration bill. Fellow gang of eight member Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., similarly asked Leahy to abandon the effort, and both indicated they would have voted against Leahy to preserve the bipartisan nature of the underlying bill.

Now, apparently, the time is right, considering both Durbin and Schumer signed onto today’s letter. As long as the administration takes care of it on its own – which is probably ideal for gay rights supporters anyway given the immigration bill faces steep odds in the House.

Full story

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