Most Republicans, evangelicals support ENDA

This Oct. 15, 2013, photo, shows a view of the U.S. Capitol building at dusk in Washington. With seven Republican … Continued

This Oct. 15, 2013, photo, shows a view of the U.S. Capitol building at dusk in Washington.

With seven Republican senators and all 55 Democratic senators publicly on board, it now seems likely that the Senate will debate and vote this week on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. If the bill moves forward, it would represent the newest effort since the 1970s to address the issue and the first time since 1996 that the Senate has given the legislation an up-or-down vote.

Although you would not guess it by the tepid support among most Republican senators, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans support workplace protections for gay and lesbian Americans. Among younger Americans, a group Republicans candidates have struggled to attract, support rises to 81 percent. And most striking is this: majorities of both Republicans (60 percent) and Democrats (80 percent) as well as majorities of every major religious group, including six-in-ten (59 percent) white evangelical Protestants, favor workplace protections for gay and lesbian people.

If ENDA passes, it will also mark the first time legislation has explicitly included protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Although this gender identity provision has been a point of contention among lawmakers in the past, rank-and-file Americans make no significant distinctions between employment protections for gay and lesbian Americans and transgender Americans.  When asked directly about the inclusion of transgender Americans, three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans—including majorities of Republicans and conservative religious groups such as white evangelical Protestants—also agree that Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination.

Two Republican members of Congress from Ohio may be poised to play a critical role. In the Senate, Rob Portman, who earlier this year made the surprise announcement that he supports same-sex marriage, may provide one of the key Republican votes in support of the bill. And in the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will largely control the fate of the bill. If they intend to follow their constituents on this issue, their decision is a relatively straightforward one. According to PRRI’s Ohio Values Survey, nearly seven-in-ten (68 percent) Ohio voters favor laws protecting gay and lesbian people against job discrimination. Like Americans overall, solid majorities of Ohio voters in both political parties and in every major religious group support workplace nondiscrimination laws for gay and lesbian people. Notably, the vast majority of Ohio voters incorrectly believe it is already illegal under Ohio and federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

While the future of ENDA in the Senate looks moderately bright, its prospects in the Republican-controlled House seem much dimmer. But one thing is clear: if Republican representatives in either chamber fail to back ENDA, it will be for reasons other than representing their constituents’ views.


Robert P. Jones Dr. Robert P. Jones is the CEO of Public Religion Research Institute and a leading scholar and commentator on religion, values, and public life.
Comments are closed.

Read More Articles

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.