House Won't Take Up ENDA

Civil rights bill is dead on arrival in the House.

Sen.Dean Heller, R-Nev., debates his challenger, Democratic congresswoman Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., at the Reno public television studios Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012.
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Just as Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada stuck out his neck to support legislation that would make it a crime for employers to discriminate against lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, Republicans announced the bill was headed nowhere in the House of Representatives.

Heller's announcement that he will support the Employment Nondiscrimination Act ensures the bill has the 60 votes it needs to overcome a procedural vote scheduled for Monday. The vote is the first of its kind in 17 years.

"I feel that supporting this legislation is the right thing to do," Heller said. "This legislation raises the federal standards to match what we have come to expect in Nevada, which is that discrimination must not be tolerated under any circumstance."

[READ: Reid Hopes to Pass LGBT Workplace Protections]

Heller will join fellow Republicans Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., in voting "yes" on the bill.

As it stands today, 21 states have passed laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on someone's sexual orientation, but only 17 states have similar protections for individuals who are transgender. And no federal law exists to protect LGBT people from being fired for being gay or transgender.

Across Capitol Hill, the legislation was served a heavy blow Monday when House Speaker John Boehner's office issued a statement in opposition of the bill.

"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel said in an emailed statement. Other House Republicans have been outspoken against the bill, arguing that it imposes on the religious liberties of business owners and managers. Although, there is a religious exemption under the law that protects churches and other religious institutions from being penalized under ENDA.

Advocates have not lost their resolve.

[READ: Young Democrats Urge Harry Reid to Press Senate Rules Change]

Many say the Senate vote Monday will give them momentum they need to keep pushing for ENDA in the House.

Public polling shows, Americans, even Republicans, overwhelming support the legislation. The left-leaning Center for American Progress found that 73 percent of Americans supported ENDA, including 66 percent of Republicans.

"The politics of ENDA are so strongly on our side that we will keep pushing Speaker Boehner until he relents," says Tico Almeida, the founder of Freedom to Work, an organization that advocates for LGBT rights.

Almeida says if Boehner won't bring the bill to the floor, his organization and others will work on a discharge petition, a work around that allows a bill to be brought to the floor automatically if it has 218 signatures.

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