Did John Boehner Just Say Equal Rights Are 'Frivolous'?

News & Politics

With Senate passage basically assured, some Democrats have been hoping to run the same playbook on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that got the Violence Against Women Act through the Republican-controlled House. AsNancy Pelosi describes how the VAWA fight went, "We made it too hot to handle in the public ... It had to come to the floor." ENDA will have to be white hot, though, given this:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) affirmed on Monday morning that he would oppose a law that would prohibit discrimination against gay and lesbian employees in the workplace, citing the possibility that it would put a financial burden on businesses.

"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.

The facts show that the Speaker's beliefs on this front are wrong—Sen. Rob Portman cited the lack of lawsuits in states that have laws against anti-gay workplace discrimination as one of his reasons for supporting ENDA and, as President Obama noted in his pro-ENDA op-ed, a majority of Fortune 500 companies have nondiscrimination policies—but we know how Republicans are with their beliefs. This gets to a fundamental distinction between VAWA and ENDA: Republicans had to at least pretend to be opposed to violence against women and quibble around the edges of which women should be protected and how strongly. They're a lot more comfortable just saying no when it comes to LGBT people—in fact, LGBT people were one of the groups House Republicans were trying to get excluded from VAWA protections.

Still, Pelosi is right: The only hope for passing ENDA through this Congress is making it too hot to handle and forcing Boehner to let it come to the floor for a vote with a majority of Republicans opposing it. The other hope, of course, is taking back the House.

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