Speaker Boehner’s intolerance of ENDA’s presence in the House unveils a weakness in democracy.
Much work has been done not only around the state of Maine, but around the nation to reduce discrimination in the workplace. The recent passing of a controversial bill in the Senate is a pivotal step in the advancement of legislation promoting equality for all Americans.
On Nov. 7, the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with a vote of 64-32. This bill would end workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a practice which is currently legal in many states. This piece of proposed legislation, known as ENDA, has been continuously proposed and denied within the Legislature since 1994. The Senate’s action in this regard lends yet another illustrative example to just how much society has changed throughout the bill’s two-decade history.
Speaker of the House, John Boehner, made public statements shortly after the Senate victory asserting his intention to restrict a vote in the House of Representatives on the bill. Without a vote in the House, the Senate’s action alone is not enough to bring the bill to law. Boehner’s decision not only adds to the rising disgrace of his party, Republican, but provides an undemocratic example of the Legislative process.
The United States has long been upheld as a model for democracy: a system of government organized so that policy can represent and respond to the public’s interests. Each member of Congress is obligated to accurately represent the interest of the constituents within their districts. Boehner does not recognize significant benefits with ENDA and posits that his expertise is enough to decide what is best for citizens throughout the entire nation, a decision that should be made by 435 representatives. His decision to restrict a vote in the House is simply a loophole used to progress the political views of a small group within a single party, the Tea Party Republicans.
This coalition of Tea Party Republicans is no stranger to finding loopholes for which to advance their personal agendas, regardless of its undemocratic nature. Earlier last month this group, with Speaker Boehner as their leader, brought the government of the United States into a temporary shutdown, causing numerous Americans to go without work, and losing the economy billions of dollars. Still upset about the Obamacare victory, signed into law in 2010, a shady attempt to overrule the Legislative system was their action of choice. Again, Boehner is contributing to the disintegration of a proven democratic process, and is dragging the reputation of the entire Republican party down with him.
Thankfully, Maine has a Republican representative to Congress who unlike Boehner recognizes the importance of representing the will of the people. US Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, has been an avid supporter of ENDA, and made successful progress in raising support and awareness of the bill, culminating with its passing a vote in the Senate.
Maine has generally been supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, most recently with Maine voters passing marriage equality in November of 2012. While marriage equality is fundamentally important, it is only a single step in recognizing the rights of all citizens. Another crucial measure that must be taken, is combating workplace discrimination.
United States rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st Congressional District of Maine is an original cosponsor of the House version of ENDA. In a letter to constituents, Pingree writes, “As a global leader, the United States must take an active role in protecting human rights and promoting equality… I look forward to working with my colleagues to build upon these successes by continuing to advance legislation that promotes equality and dignity for all Americans.”
The global influence of the United States in protecting human rights is being controlled by the discretion of one person: John Boehner. If the bill is brought to the House, and does not pass, a democratic process representing the will of citizens throughout the United States will at least be expressed. Speaker John Boehner is abusing his authority by not bringing ENDA to the House of Representatives for a vote.
Bryan Bonin is a senior political science major with a concentration in law