Barack Obama: President of the United States, and Huffington Post blogger. In a post on Sunday night, Obama made the case for Congress to finally pass ENDA, otherwise known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The measure would protect gay and transgender employees from discrimination on the basis of their orientation or gender identity, and it goes up for a vote in the Senate Monday night. Speaking of that lack of protection for LGBT Americans, the president wrote: "It's offensive. It's wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense."
Citing broad support for the bill among Americans, Obama argues that ENDA "ought to be the law of the land." According to a Washington Post analysis, the president is correct about that broad support, found in a majority of voters in all 50 states of the nation. But that doesn't mean it will pass Congress. In fact, ENDA has failed to do just that, many many times before. The first iteration of ENDA was in 1974. In its many variations — for instance, sometimes with protections for transgendered Americans, sometimes without — it has failed to pass several times since then.
Keeping the bill's history in mind, Obama's pitch devotes substantial time to the business angle to ENDA:
Does it make a difference if the firefighter who rescues you is gay -- or the accountant who does your taxes, or the mechanic who fixes your car? ... The majority of Fortune 500 companies and small businesses already have nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT employees. These companies know that it's both the right thing to do and makes good economic sense. They want to attract and retain the best workers, and discrimination makes it harder to do that.
Obama's post (his third on the Huffington Post, if you're counting) wasn't the only high-profile endorsement of ENDA out Sunday: Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an op-ed on the subject for the Wall Street Journal. Silicon Valley watchers, along with readers of Out magazine, may understand why Cook's very business-like piece is getting a lot of attention: the CEO has never publicly discussed his sexuality, despite leading Out magazine's Power 50 list of influential LGBT celebrities for three straight years. And true to form, Cook does not get personal in his piece. He writes:
Protections that promote equality and diversity should not be conditional on someone's sexual orientation. For too long, too many people have had to hide that part of their identity in the workplace. Those who have suffered discrimination have paid the greatest price for this lack of legal protection. But ultimately we all pay a price. If our coworkers cannot be themselves in the workplace, they certainly cannot be their best selves. When that happens, we undermine people's potential and deny ourselves and our society the full benefits of those individuals' talents.
In the Senate, the bill will certainly need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and pass. And that could actually happen, as it's drawing somewhat bipartisan support in that chamber. But in the House, things are less certain. Will Speaker John Boehner even bring it up for a vote should it pass the Senate? That's not a sure thing. Heritage, for one, is pushing hard against the bill and scoring this week's Senate vote.