This week is shaping up to be a big one for equal rights.
Late last week, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) scheduled a Monday vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act by filing cloture for the bill. The cloture vote, which will require 60 votes, is expected to take place around 1:45 p.m. Alaska Standard Time today.
All 53 Democratic senators, including Mark Begich, have registered their support. They are joined by both independent senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, and four Republican Senators: Susan Collins (R-Maine), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Ohio Republican Senator Bob Portman, who could represent the deciding vote, has been reported to be “leaning toward” a “yes” vote.
“I support [ENDA] because I am a strong believer that individuals should be judged on whether or not they can do the job, and not how they look or are perceived,” Senator Murkowski told the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce last month. “Discrimination should never be tolerated in the workplace. It’s just that simple.”
The legislation isn’t new territory to Anchorage, which has seen similar proposals defeated via Mayor Dan Sullivan’s veto pen in 2009 and by way of the ballot box in 2012. However, ENDA is limited to employment practices, leaving LGBT Americans living in locales without protections and susceptible to discrimination along housing and credit lines.
As the anti-gay Alaska Family Action’s president Jim Minnery phrased it, in a letter asking supporters to contact Murkowski’s office and demand a “no” vote:
ENDA would make it illegal for organizations with 15 or more employees to “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual … because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Except, he said it like that’s a bad thing.
If the legislation succeeds in attaining the 60-vote threshold, a full vote by the upper chamber could come as early as this Wednesday. The bill would, then, move on to the House, where its prospects of passing are much more challenging.
UPDATE: ENDA clears 60 vote hurdle, will likely be voted on later this week.