Speaker of the House John Boehner said this week that he hasn’t seen ENDA, doesn’t know what it is about, thinks there’s probably adequate protections already in place to prevent workplace discrimination against LGBTs, but if not he’s sure a committee will get to it eventually.
Boehner seemed unaware of ENDA in response to a question from the Washington Blade, saying, “I haven’t seen the bill. I haven’t thought much about it.”
Asked whether passage of ENDA might alleviate the 8.2 percent unemployment rate if employers were barred from firing LGBT workers, Boehner said “ample laws” are in place and deferred further comment to the House Committee on Education & the Workforce. The committee didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“No one should face discrimination in the workforce,” Boehner said.
“There are ample laws already in place to deal with this. Having been the chairman of the Education & Workforce Committee, I’m quite familiar with employment law. But if there are further changes that are necessary, I’m sure the committee will look at it.”
That Speaker Boehner claims to be familiar with employment law is interesting because if he is, he will know that in 34 states it is still perfectly legal to fire someone for being trans and in 29 states still legal to fire them for being gay. He should recognize the issue at hand and know there is pressing need for a solution.
While this may seem like a predictable response from the house leadership — one that, admittedly, didn’t seem overtly hostile though — it does raise the serious question of how the Obama administration hopes to push ENDA, or the Employment Non Discrimination Act, with a House majority that still will likely oppose the bill if out of nothing but indifference to the plight of LGBT workers.
Currently, ENDA has 161 co-sponsors in the House. That’s desperately short of the 218 votes that would be needed for passage.
It is noteworthy that with the Obama administration’s refusal to sign an executive order before ENDA is through Congress, Obama has in some ways, while taking fierce criticism himself, set the House leadership up for a rather precarious position: if the Republicans oppose ENDA, legislation that for a long time now has had majority bipartisan public support, they will be seen as regressive and, crucially, as curtailing vital legislation that could help jobs and infrastructure, two things that the House leadership was supposedly all about. A game of politics is slowly emerging, all the while LGBT workers remain vulnerable.
Meanwhile, the pressure on the Obama administration over its refusal to sign an executive order continues to increase with the Washington Post having published yet another article urging the President to act.