ENDA, which the Senate passed in a 64-32 vote Nov. 7 with support from Pennsylvania’s Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, would protect LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination.
U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent (15th Dist.) led four other Republicans and five Democrats in a letter to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who has refused to bring ENDA to a House vote because it would “bring too many lawsuits.”
The letter was signed by Democratic Congressmembers Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), Ron Kind (Wisc.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and out Congressmembers Kristen Sinema (Ariz.) and Jared Polis (Colo.), along with Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehlinen (Fla.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Jon Runyan (N.J.) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.).
The Congressmembers said a vote would “allow the members to vote as they see fit — and demonstrate to the American people that Congress can work in a bipartisan manner on an important issue of fairness.”
Dent, who voted for ENDA when it came to the House floor in 2007, told PGN this week that ENDA should not be a partisan issue.
“It is simply a matter of fairness,” he said. “We should prohibit discrimination in the workplace. Much of American industry has adopted these policies already, so it is time to pass this law.”
ENDA has been introduced repeatedly since 1994, and this year marked its first-ever Senate vote.
Joining Dent as cosponsors on the House version are Pennsylvania Democratic Congressmembers Robert Brady (First Dist.), Matt Cartwright (17th Dist.), Michael Doyle (14th Dist.), Chaka Fattah (Second Dist.) and Allyson Schwartz (13th Dist.).
This is not the first time Dent, a moderate Republican, has supported LGBT-inclusive legislation.
Dent voted for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and to extend the federal hate-crimes law to include the LGBT community. Dent has also cosponsored the United Americans Families Act, which seeks to equalize immigration laws for same-sex couples.
Equality Pennsylvania executive director Ted Martin said Dent’s support, along with that of the four other Republicans, could help move the bill forward.
“Any time that more people, specifically Republicans, see this is the right thing to do, once they publicly support these things, it proves to be incredibly important,” Martin said.
Dent said he hopes Toomey’s support of the bill in the Senate influences his fellow House Republicans to also back the measure.
“[Toomey] showed courage in supporting the bill,” he said.
In addition to last week’s letter, Dent said he and fellow supporters have been pressing for support from their colleagues on an individual basis.
Dent said the bill’s best chance of making it to the floor could be as an amendment to other legislation.
“I don’t know if we will see the bill brought up as a stand-alone measure,” he said. “What I think may happen is that the language of the bill will be offered as an amendment to some other legislative vehicle. It is quite possible this bill will be considered but perhaps as an amendment to another bill.”