So perhaps it’s worth recalling some historical context: Two well known House Republican leaders voted for ENDA the last time it was put to a House vote, in 2007: Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s vice presidential candidate in 2012, and Rep. Greg Walden, who as NRCC chair is in charge of protecting the House GOP majority.
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.”
In fairness, in those same interviews, both Ryan and Walden opposed the inclusion of protections for transgender 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.
Beyond this, gay rights advocates point to a culture that has advanced significantly on gay rights issues since 2007, and even since 2010 (Obama became the first American president to endorse gay marriage in May of 2012, and polls have only recently started to show majority support for it). And to their mind, the fact that today’s House Republicans may not even allow a vote on ending anti-gay workplace discrimination — even as two current GOP leaders voted for it in 2007, along with 33 other House Republicans – is a sign (transgender protections or No) that the House GOP has gone in the exact opposite direction the rest of the culture has taken.
The Post’s Monkey Cage Blog took a look at the polling on ENDA and found:
Nearly all recent opinion polls indicate that a large majority of the American public — more than 70 percent — supports efforts to make employment discrimination against gay men and and lesbians illegal…when we use national polls to estimate opinion by state, we find that majorities in all 50 states support ENDA-like legislation (note that in 1996, majorities in only 36 states supported ENDA). Today, public support ranges from a low of 63 percent in Mississippi to a high of 81 percent in Massachusetts.
“In 2007, this might have been a difficult vote for Republicans to have taken,” Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, tells me. “In 2013 you cannot make this claim seriously. We’ve come a long way in six years. On gay issues, it has been a lifetime.”
Or, as Benjy Sarlin puts it: “The segment of socially conservative Republicans strongly opposed to these measures can’t hold back these floodwaters for much longer.”
Yet the only leadership on the issue we’re seeing from Republicans right now is in the Senate, where Susan Collins is shepherding ENDA forward among colleagues. In the House, Republicans appear to be moving backwards.