The Employment Non-Discrimination Act gained its 57th supporter in the Senate Tuesday afternoon when Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor said he would vote for it, followed Wednesday morning by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, until then the lone Democratic holdout. With New Jersey's Cory Booker expected to support it after he is sworn in this week, the bill prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of sexuality or gender identity has 59 votes, just
two one short of the 60-vote supermajority required to get to a final vote in the Senate these days. So what's the road to 60, if there is one?
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois are already cosponsors, while Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted for the bill in committee; they're part of the 59 votes now expected. As for the rest:
First up is Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who told reporters Tuesday that he’s “inclined to back” the proposal. A spokesman later clarified that Portman “agrees with the underlying principle” of the measure, but is seeking changes to address concerns with the bill’s religious liberties provisions. [...]There aren't too many people who've taken steps backward on gay rights since 2007, so Flake is at least making himself stand out, I guess? Meanwhile, Portman's religious liberties concerns look a lot like an excuse to give himself wiggle room, since ENDA has serious religious exemptions already:
But [Arizona Sen. Jeff] Flake said a statement late Tuesday that even though he supported a 2007 version of the measure, the new Senate version “includes new provisions that will increase the potential for litigation and compliance costs, especially for small businesses. For that reason, I oppose the Senate bill.”
Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte, and Nevada's Dean Heller—Republicans who've supported some LGBT-friendly policies in the past—are all still thinking it over.
- A complete exemption for houses of worship, parochial and similar religious schools, and missions
- A codification of the so-called “ministerial exemption” recognized by many federal courts, exempting positions at religious organizations that involve the teaching or spreading religion, religious governance, or the supervision of individuals engaged in these activities
- A provision allowing religious organizations, for classes of jobs, to require employees and applicants to conform to a declared set of significant religious tenets, including ones which would bar LGBT people from holding the position