Politics Social Justice Ohio senator influential in passage of anti-discrimination bill By The New Political Posted on November 14, 2013 6 min read 0 0 370 Change is erupting in Washington with the passing of a 20-year-old bill. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) protects gays, queers, and transexuals from being discriminated against in the workforce. Although this bill still has yet to go through the House of Representatives, the fact that it passed in the Senate, for the first time in 20 years, is stirring up excitement. Furthermore, the passing of ENDA suggests majority of the public support equality for the LGBT community. Last year, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman changed his stance on homosexuality when his son revealed that he was gay. Now, Portman backs ENDA. In an email, Portman said, “People should be judged by their experience, their qualifications, and their job performance, and not by their sexual orientation. Someone should not be able to get fired just because he or she is gay. I believe ENDA will help create a level playing field and ensure that employment opportunities are available to all.” In recent years, public opinion has swayed from one extreme to the next. In a current poll, 73 percent of Americans support ENDA. The support for equality among the LGBT community has risen so high in the past three to four years that the issue of homosexuality has not become a political issue but a human rights issue. The passing of ENDA through the Senate supports this idea. In fact, in 1994, when a version of ENDA was first introduced, the bill failed in the Senate 49-50. Since the passing of ENDA on Nov. 7, the bill passed in the Senate 64-32. It is not just Portman that has changed his stance on the issue. There are many high-profile politicians who are now in favor of LGBT equality: President Barack Obama, Jon Huntsman (R-UT), former president Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are just to name a few. However, Speaker of the House John Boehner is not expected to vote in favor of ENDA. In a statement released Thursday, Boehner said, “I am opposed of any discrimination of any kind in the workplace. But I think this legislation I’ve dealt with as chairman of The Education & The Workplace Committee long before I was back in the leadership is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits. People are already protected in the workplace. I’m opposed to continuing this…I see no basis or need for this legislation.” Although many believe that there may not be a need for ENDA, it is perfectly legal to discriminate someone based on their sexual preferences. Only 21 states and D.C. have laws protecting against employment discrimination. This goes along with a statistic that says 38 percent of gays feel like they are being discriminated in the workforce. Without Boehner’s support, ENDA is not expected to pass in the House. Furthermore, this bill does have some religious restrictions on it as well as small employment restrictions. This bill doesn’t apply to any religious organizations. And in small businesses with 15 employees or less, it would still be legal for an employer to fire an employee because of his or her sexual preferences. Even though Portman supports the bill, he also supports its religious amendment. “Religious liberty is an important part of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The underlying bill includes a significant exemption for religious employers. We must make certain that in pursuit of enforcing non-discrimination, those religious employers are not subject to a different form of discrimination-government retaliation” said Portman. However ENDA ends up, it can be sure that this bill will keep on coming back to Congress until it passes. Until then, supporters can take comfort in knowing that public support for the LGBT community is growing and politicians are jumping on board.