Will Ohio Sen. Rob Portman Support ENDA?
Earlier this year Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) made national headlines when he came out in support of LGBT rights after learning that one of his sons is gay. Now the politician's statements are being tested as the Employee Non-Discrimination Act is expected to come to the Senate floor.
According to Cleveland.com, Portman says he is leaning toward voting for ENDA, which would end anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace. But as the site points out, Portman did not give a "firm 'yes.'"
On Oct. 30 the Associated Press reported that all Senate Democrats officially backed ENDA with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia being the last Democrat to support the measure. A vote on ENDA could come as early as next week but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needs 60 votes to overcome a likely Republican-led filibuster. Though all 52 Democrats back ENDA four Republican senators have as well: Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. This gives Reid a total of 60 votes.
"I agree with the basic principle of ENDA," Portman told reports, according to Clevland.com. "I don't think that any of my constituents ought to be able to be fired because he or she is gay. ... I think that people should be judged on their job performance and on the merits, not by what their sexual orientation is."
Portman says he wants to make sure religious organizations can be exempt if they believe LGBT people in the workplace goes against their beliefs. A reporter asked the senator why a religious organization, hospital or social service agency should be allowed to discriminate against LGBT people, Portman said, "The legislation, as you know, does have language with regard to religious freedom that I would like to improve."
"I've been working with the author of the legislation on that, because I also believe as a matter of principle that people should be able to allow their religious beliefs - you mentioned a Catholic hospital, certainly a Catholic school, or another religious entity - to be able to have their religious freedoms protected. And the legislation attempts to do that," he added. "I think it could do it better, in a more direct way, so I have been trying to clarify that."
He went on to say that he's working with the other lawmakers, including ENDA's author, on improving the measure.
"We're in the middle of discussions so I'm really not prepared to talk about it today," Portman said.
Cleveland.com reports that there are already religious exemptions in ENDA and Portman's stance is upsetting some civil liberties and LGBT groups.
"If we can't even get John Boehner to take up immigration in the House, the chance of taking up ENDA is small," Heather Cronk, national co-director of the group GetEqual, told Cleveland.com.
In March, Portman wrote an op-ed piece for The Columbus Dispatch outlining his change of heart when it comes to marriage equality.
"I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn't deny them the opportunity to get married," he wrote.
When Portman was a member of the House in 1996, he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal measure that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In his op-ed, however, he said his views changed when his son came out to him in 2011.