Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Prospects for ENDA

ENDA has been proposed in Congress since before I went into labor (so to speak) in 1996. For most of that time, I viewed it as a bit of a pipe-dream: something that I wished would pass, but realistically I didn't think it stood a chance. On the other hand, if you asked me in the late 1990s which would pass first: gay marriage in a bunch of states, or federal legislation barring discrimination against gay people, I would have thought that the non-discrimination act would have a better shot than something as tied to religion as marriage. It makes no sense to be against discrimination against gays in marriage but for permitting it in employment.

The gay marriage tide really seems to be turning, with 14 states plus DC permitting gay marriage, with two more states likely to turn soon (NM and HI), and with the federal government now recognizing same-sex marriage. While that's only about 1/3 of the states, the states are flipping fast. I never really bought the "momentum" idea in politics (just because there was a lot of change in some states doesn't necessarily mean it will carry over to others). But the pattern really does suggest a steady increase of recognition of same-sex marriage across the country.

I wonder if increasing legal acceptance of gay marriage will finally pull ENDA across the finish line. It already has more than 50 supporters in the Senate and is working towards a filibuster-proof 60 votes. It won't go anywhere in the House as long as the GOP is in control and follow the Hastur Rule. But I still think that opposition won't hold up in the long term. The culture is just changing. You don't get the points you used to for being an anti-gay bigot. Plus the Republican gerrymandered advantage is going to fade as the decade progresses. It may take a several more years, but I think ENDA will eventually become law.