Big Step Forward For LGBT Rights

When it comes to LGBT rights, Republicans might actually be coming around. In 61-30 vote on Monday night, the Senate voted to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act forward, garnering support from the entire Democratic caucus and seven Republicans. The bill, known as ENDA, would prevent discrimination in the workplace based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. President Obama hasn’t made any qualms about his undying support for ENDA. In a lengthy and original blog post for The Huffington Post, the president made his plea for Congress to pass the bill.

Here in the United States, we're united by a fundamental principle: we're all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We believe that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the chance to follow your dreams and pursue your happiness. That's America's promise.

Back in 1996, the Senate voted on another version of ENDA — but it failed to pass. Now, nearly two decades later, the bill is expected to have an easy time passing through the Senate, but may face roadblocks in the House. Obama continued:

America is at a turning point. We're not only becoming more accepting and loving as a people, we're becoming more just as a nation. But we still have a way to go before our laws are equal to our Founding ideals... As I said in my second inaugural address, our nation's journey toward equality isn't complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

Of course, the momentum for gay rights across the country is growing. The advancement of this landmark piece of legislation comes less than one week after the senate in Hawaii voted to pass a bill legalizing gay marriage. Indeed, a Gallup poll in July revealed that 52 percent of Americans would support a federal law legalizing same-sex marriage across all 50 states. While the majority of Americans are in favor of marriage equality, political party alignment is seemingly at the root of the divide: 77 percent of liberals are pro-gay marriage, while only 30 percent of conservatives join in that opinion.

Of course, ENDA isn't about gay marriage. It's about something you'd think wouldn't be controversial at all: preventing discrimination in the workplace. But don't think that means it will pass. As Bustle's Katie Zavadiski explained yesterday:

One roadblock (surprise, surprise) has been the House. John Boehner’s spokesperson told Politico that, “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.” Never mind the fact that to utilize the bill some poor soul would have to put themselves up to public scrutiny — that alone is enough to deter most people from suing under non-discrimination laws! No, the point of the law is so that, hopefully, the knowledge that there could be a lawsuit will make employers think twice before firing someone just for being gay.

Whether or not our partisan government can even agree on that idea remains to be seen.