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Republican Senators Burr and Portman Targeted On Eve Of ENDA Vote

Richard_BurrThe Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee is set to consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) tomorrow, July 10. While the bill already has the support of senate Democrats, LGBT activists today set their sights on GOP senators who have previously expressed support for LGBT rights, such as marriage equality or the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". 

The group Freedom to Work targeted Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), a GOP member of the committee who previously voted for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". The group enlisted the help of LGBT activist Dan Gurley to assist with their efforts. Gurley believed that Sen. Burr's background as a former business owner should have allowed him to better understand the benefits of legislation like ENDA: 

“There’s a lot of transition still taking place in our economy here, but the growth areas, many of them are the creative fields of employment and white-collar growth...We strongly feel, and believes that there’s evidence to prove that having non-discrimination laws in place would serve as an important recruitment tool for business, and that’s why it’s an important thing to do for North Carolina and the country.”

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, also noted that many prominent North Carolina companies have already adopted non-discrimination policies.

“It’s long past time for our politicians to follow the good example set by companies with a strong North Carolina presence ranging from American Eagle Outfitters to BP gasoline to Coca-Cola, all of which have endorsed the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

Unfortunately, in a statement released late today to the Washington Blade, Burr announced that he will be opposing ENDA:

“Like most Americans, I strongly oppose and condemn unjust discrimination,” Burr said. “It is my hope that our society can be tolerant of different people and ideas. That said, whenever we consider new legislation we must always consider the interplay of new laws with existing rights. I am concerned that the ENDA bill would go beyond our existing laws protecting individuals’ employment rights and would impose new burdens and legal uncertainties regarding the exercise of religious liberties. Therefore, I plan to oppose the bill.”

Rob_PortmanMeanwhile, in Ohio, GetEQUAL scheduled a news conference today with hopes of grabbing the attention of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Towleroad readers may recognize Portman as the senator who came out in support of marriage equality after learning that his son is gay. GetEQUAL's press conference plans to appeal to those sentiments by showcasing the stories of two mothers, both of whom have children who have suffered at the hands of workplace discrimination. Heather Cronk, managing director for the group, had this to say:

“We’re calling on Senator Portman to ‘evolve’ on workplace discrimination in the same way that he ‘evolved’ on marriage equality — by seeing this issue as one of fundamental fairness and equal opportunity.” 

Jeffrey Sadosky, a spokesperson for Sen. Portman, did release a prior statement last month, which was less than committal. 

“Sen. Portman is strongly opposed to discrimination and is looking at proposals to address it,” Sadosky said. “He is concerned about excessive reliance on litigation as a tool for social change, and will continue to review the most recent version of ENDA.”

Since the bill is co-sponsored by all 12 Democratic members of the The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, it is expected to be advanced. If so, the legislation faces an uphill battle, especially in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. 


Senator Rob Portman Talks ENDA, Immigration, and Marriage Equality: VIDEO

Buzzfeed sat down with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) at one of its Buzzfeed Brews events during which beer is guzzled. About half of the discussion was devoted to LGBT issues including immigration, ENDA, and his shift on marriage equality.

PortmanChris Geidner encapsulates the discussion:

Noting that many areas of federal law address marriage-based benefits, Portman counseled against the creation of a specific category for same-sex couples in immigration law — although he stopped short of saying he would oppose such a measure....

...Portman also expressed general support for LGBT employment protections, saying, "I totally support the concept" of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar most employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"There oughta be a law in place," he said, expressing two potential concerns with ENDA: "litigation that could result" and "religious freedom."

...Asked about criticism he received when announcing his changed view on marriage equality by those who said it shouldn't have taken learning about his son for him to change on the issue, he initially replied, "Whatever."

Portman then said he hadn't thought about the issue in depth prior to learning about his son, although he said that perhaps he should have done so.

Pick up the conversation as it turns to LGBT issues, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Senator Rob Portman Talks ENDA, Immigration, and Marriage Equality: VIDEO" »


Paul Cameron Tells Rob Portman to Renounce Marriage Equality Support for the Sake of 'Son You Love'

Dr Paul Cameron, prominent health researcher (in the field of smoking) turned anti-gay activist, called on Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to renounce his support for marriage equality in a press release this week:

"For the sake of the son you love, urge him to marry a woman," Cameron says.

CameronFrom the lengthy press release:

For the same reason society is concerned about the health effects of secondhand smoke, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court should oppose the rush to nationalize same-sex marriage. Litigating for “marriage equality” is like suing to suspend gravity; as a matter of science, gay marriage is very clearly unequal in terms of procreative and mortality prospects…

An April NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that 50 percent of Americans imagine with Rob Portman, against the empirical evidence, that people are born gay. Ted Olson, the GOP lawyer who argued for gay marriage in the Supreme Court is sworn to tell the truth, falsely wrote in the Journal that homosexual orientation is “a characteristic with which they were born and which they cannot change.”

In fact, twin studies show that homosexual interests are not DNA-determined like race, gender and eye color, so gay analogies to the Civil Rights struggles of the last century are inapt. How else does one explain how Ellen DeGeneres’ first ‘lifetime partner’ could abandon homosexuality for traditional marriage? Senator Portman’s son was no more “born with” homosexual preferences than anyone is ‘born with’ a sexual taste for children — both are acquired and can be controlled.


Rob Portman Sees GOP Support Slip After Backing Marriage Equality

Senator Rob Portman has seen a loss of support from Republicans since coming out for marriage equality in March, the WaPo reports:

PortmanForty percent of Ohio voters approve of Sen. Rob Portman’s job performance in a new Quinnipiac poll; 31 percent disapprove. Last month, 44 percent approved of his work and 24 disapproved.

The dip is due to a 13-point increase in his disapproval rating among  Republicans. Forty-one percent of GOP voters said they view Portman less favorably because of his shift. Overall, 20 percent of voters think more favorably of the senator now, 25 percent think less favorably and 53 percent say it makes no difference. Portman’s disapproval rating with independents is also up slightly.


Thank the Law for Marriage Equality Momentum

By ARI EZRA WALDMAN

In both the run up to and in the wake of historic Supreme Court arguments on gay equality (which you can read about here, here, here, here, and here), several political leaders from both parties have come out in favor of the freedom to marry. We've had Jon Huntsman, a Republican; Mark Begich, a Democrat; Rob Portman, a Republican; Hillary Clinton, a Democrat; Mark Kirk, a Republican; Bob Casey, a Democrat; and many others. And, they are just a tiny fraction of a fraction of the 58 % of Americans that now support our quest for marriage recognition.

WydenSenators Begich, Portman, Kirk, and Casey are 4 among the 52 United States Senators -- more than 1/2 of that august body -- on the right side of history. Senator Tim Johnson, Democrat of South Dakota, is the latest, and Sen. Kirk is the latest Republican to buck the continued bigotry of his party's base and leadership, a position for which he deserves credit. But, let's not put the latecomers above the vanguard, like Senator Ron Wyden (pictured), a Democrat, who came out for marriage equality in 1995, before "marriage equality" was the de rigueur phrase and long before every other proud progressive felt comfortable following his lead.

Conservatives and liberals have blasted some our most recent allies as "phony" opportunists, spineless, or worse. Chief Justice Roberts even derisively characterized them as "falling over themselves" to support us. Others say we should welcome the evolution as either the nature of the political beast or the product of a personal journey. That's a discussion worth having, but at the moment, I am more interested in what got us here.

If you have been reading the news over the past two weeks, your head might be spinning from the tidal wave of pro-equality support. I mixed those metaphors for a reason: it's a surprisingly accurate description. One by one, many of our politicians have jumped on the marriage bandwagon. There were some important moments along the way -- President Obama and Rob Portman come to mind -- but the momentum reached a climax in the week leading up the Supreme Court hearings on Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Prop 8 case, and Windsor v. United States, the challenge to DOMA.

Timing was not our only ally; the law was, too. Federal court challenges to two harmful and discriminatory laws gave us the opportunity to replace the lies and fearmongering of the DOMA Congress and the Prop 8 proponents with truth and justice. And, the public learned, taking to heart the well-publicized lessons of court decision after court decision. Generational shifts are playing their role, but the law was the catalyst of the falling dominoes we read about every day. Hollingsworth and Windsor pushed public opinion, laying bare the emptiness of our opponents' arguments and the virulence of their hatred. There was little for politics to do other than to try and keep up.

I consider the catalytic effect of the law AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Thank the Law for Marriage Equality Momentum" »


Rob Portman's Son Will Talks About Coming Out to His Father

Senator Rob Portman's son Will, talks about his entire coming out process, from being completely closeted, to telling his best friends, to writing a letter coming out to his parents, to finally experiencing the freedom of being fully out in an essay in the Yale Daily News that will likely resonate with a lot of people.

2_portmanHere's an excerpt:

I started talking to my dad more about being gay. Through the process of my coming out, we’d had a tacit understanding that he was my dad first and my senator a distant second. Eventually, though, we began talking about the policy issues surrounding marriage for same-sex couples.

The following summer, the summer of 2012, my dad was under consideration to be Gov. Romney’s running mate. The rest of my family and I had given him the go-ahead to enter the vetting process. My dad told the Romney campaign that I was gay, that he and my mom were supportive and proud of their son, and that we’d be open about it on the campaign trail.

When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign. Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.

We had decided that my dad would talk about having a gay son if he were to change his position on marriage equality. It would be the only honest way to explain his change of heart. Besides, the fact that I was gay would probably become public anyway. I had encouraged my dad all along to change his position, but it gave me pause to think that the one thing that nobody had known about me for so many years would suddenly become the one thing that everybody knew about me.

It has been strange to have my personal life in the headlines. I could certainly do without having my sexual orientation announced on the evening news, or commentators weighing in to tell me things like living my life honestly and fully is “harmful to [me] and society as a whole.” But in many ways it’s been a privilege to come out so publicly. Now, my friends at Yale and the folks in my dad’s political orbit in Ohio are all on the same page. They know two things about me that I’m very proud of, not just one or the other: that I’m gay, and that I’m Rob and Jane Portman’s son.

Check it all here.


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