Friday, November 8, 2013

Face the Future

Here he goes again. Senator Harry Reid (D-Fierce) has been on a roll lately. And he still isn't letting up.

In recent years, he's come around to not only accept LGBTQ Nevadans, but also work hard on a number of LGBTQ civil rights issues. He's evolved on marriage equality. He played a major role in ending the military's ban on out servicemembers. And now, Senator Harry Reid is taking on ENDA.

This morning, The New York Times ran an interesting story on the role various Mormon Senators have had in ENDA's successful Senate passage yesterday. It ended with these words from Senator Reid.

In an interview on Thursday, he recalled how he once considered sexual orientation “kind of an environmental thing,” but said he later realized that orientation was not in fact a choice.

He has a lesbian niece who he said had “helped us work our way through the issues.” He recalled having two neighbors in Nevada he always called “the bachelors.” Thinking of them now, he said, he realizes they must have been gay. “Let’s assume they got married. What difference would it make to me and my family? Zero. None. None,” Mr. Reid said.

He has already been to two same-sex weddings this year, including one where he gave a toast to the grooms.

Mormons, who have seen their own share of bias, should be especially sensitive, he said. “I would think that members of the church should understand that one of the things that should be paramount in their minds,” he said, “is how they’ve been treated.”

While he hasn't evolved quite as much as Senator Reid, Senator Dean Heller (R) did ultimately carry ENDA over the finish line this month. And he wasn't alone. 9 other Senate Republicans contributed to that wide 64-32 ENDA win. Even next door neighbor Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted for ENDA.

So why are House Republican "leaders" so adamant in halting ENDA's progress there? We've been exploring this sordid situation all this week. And today, Salon's Brian Beutler has something to add to this.

[ENDA] passed [the Senate], yes. But the majority of Republicans continue to support the proposition that employers should be allowed to fire (or refuse to hire) people on the basis of their sexual orientations. And all but two Senate Republicans voted for an amendment that would have created a loophole in the bill big enough to drive the Westboro Baptist Church through. After it failed, only ten broke ranks to help pass the final Senate legislation. Eight of them were among the same members of the GOP conference who helped pass immigration reform legislation earlier this year.

This splinter group of Senate Republicans recognizes that the right can’t fight the changing demographic tide any longer. But they haven’t won that argument with the rest of the party. In fact, they are House Speaker John Boehner’s second biggest problem. Every politically potent piece of legislation they help Democrats pass paints him deeper into a corner. It clarifies that he, and House Republicans generally, stand alone in the way of efforts to improve the lives of constituencies that Republicans know they can’t keep alienating — minorities, women, immigrants, the LGBT community.

And that brings us back to the issue at heart. There may actually be enough House votes to pass ENDA in that chamber. But because Speaker John Boehner (R-Scared) fears the wrath of the 21st Century Know Nothings, he won't allow a floor vote. And the Culture War that's become the G-O-TEA Civil War rages on.

We've seen the likes of Senator Reid and President Obama evolve on LGBTQ civil rights. The whole nation has been doing that for some time. Yet because some Republicans still don't want to evolve into the future, ENDA is stuck.

This isn't sustainable. Americans don't get it. Sooner or later, Republican "leaders" will have to face the future.

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