The path towards the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or ENDA becoming law took one step forward on Monday morning but two steps backward when Speaker of the House John Boehner came out against the measure. The bill, which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, was endorsed by Sen. Dean Heller, (R-NV) giving it the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. Heller’s support may help ENDA pass the Senate, but Boehner’s opposition dealt a major blow to its chances in the House.
Just minutes after Heller’s office announced that the Nevada Republican was supporting the bill, Boehner came out against the measure. In a statement, Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”
Boehner’s opposition means it is very unlikely that ENDA will be brought to the House floor for an up-or-down vote, which hurts but doesn’t totally derail the legislation’s chances. Supporters could still attach it as an amendment to a defense-spending bill or even try to use a legislative maneuver called a discharge petition to force a vote, if they can get a majority of the House behind the bill.
ENDA is likely to pass the Senate in the coming days, which would be the first time that the anti-discrimination bill has ever been passed by that chamber. The result will be a victory for LGBT advocates who have pushed to pass an anti-discrimination law for decades. But the likely consequence of Boehner’s open opposition will be to make a Senate victory merely symbolic. ENDA’s approval by the Senate will be an important milestone but the bill still needs to pass the House of Representatives to become law.