HARTFORD – When it comes to gun rights and gay rights, Connecticut is often not the same as the rest of the country.
That became evident again Friday when U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called upon the Republican House Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
ENDA was passed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday by 64 to 32, including support by Blumenthal and Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut, John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Orrin Hatch of Utah.
The bill was introduced 17 years ago in the U.S. Senate by Democrat Ted Kennedy, but it was never passed until this week. The measure is designed to prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation by businesses with more than 15 employees, as well as labor unions and employment agencies.
Boehner, who controls the agenda in the Republican-led House, says that the bill is unnecessary and will hurt small businesses.
“I’m very proud to be from Connecticut, where we’ve already recognized this principle,” Blumenthal told reporters Friday at the state Capitol complex.
Connecticut passed a similar law back in 1991 when a little-known Republican legislator named M. Jodi Rell voted in favor of the bill. That law prohibits discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment.
Nationally, Connecticut is among 21 states with similar laws. The federal law, if passed, would adopt a national standard regarding discrimination.
Regarding Boehner, Blumenthal said, “One man in one branch of government should not block the entire nation from taking a dramatic, landmark step toward non-discrimination in the workplace. What this legislation means essentially is nobody should have to go to work in fear of being fired because of sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s really that simple.”
State comptroller Kevin Lembo said he was concerned that Boehner’s spokesman says the bill will generate frivolous lawsuits.
“I need to break that down, for just a minute, because it makes my head hurt,” Lembo said. “I take exception with the use of the term frivolous.”
“I congratulate the speaker on hitting the biological trifecta in being born white, straight, and male in America, but not everyone is dealt that same hand,” said Lembo, who is openly gay.
While it is unclear exactly when a final vote might take place, Blumenthal says it will eventually happen.
“This will be taken up, and it will be passed,” Blumenthal said. “The only question is when. My only hope is that it will be within weeks and months, not years.”