The Senate is set to hold a first vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act late Monday afternoon, and is ultimately expected to pass the bill with several Republican votes. But in the House, Republicans seem dead set against the bill prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. No surprise, right? Except it kind of is: Back in 2007, both Rep. Paul Ryan and the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Greg Walden, voted for ENDA.
What’s more, as late as 2010, when the measure was being debated again, both Ryan and Walden were sticking up for the basic principle at the heart of ENDA. Said Ryan: “I think ENDA’s the right thing to do.” Said Walden: “I don’t believe in discrimination in the workplace.”Let's face it, if you "don't believe in discrimination in the workplace," allowing it to continue for gay people because you actually do believe in discrimination in the workplace when it comes to transgender people is a position that will make very few people happy. But, as noted, transgender protections aren't what Republicans are talking about. They're talking about religious liberty, despite a very broad religious exemption in the current version of ENDA. They're talking about all those frivolous lawsuits that might happen, even though they haven't happened in the states that already have ENDA-like laws. (To say nothing of the idea that it's somehow frivolous to sue because you lost your job not because of how well you did your job but because of sexual or gender identity.) But transgender protections? Many Republicans oppose them, just as some congressional Republicans doubtless do think it's just fine to fire someone for being gay, but they're notably not running around bragging about it.
In fairness, in those same interviews, both Ryan and Walden opposed the inclusion of protections for transgendered Americans. And that protection is in the current version set to pass the Senate. But Boehner’s statement grounds House GOP opposition to today’s version of ENDA in the notion that it will lead to frivolous lawsuits and kill jobs, not in transgender protections.
So will Ryan and Walden pressure Boehner to allow a House vote on ENDA? Or will they confirm once again that their party has become ever more extremist in recent years?