West Virginia Democrat Signs On As The 52nd Sponsor Of The Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

Credit: Daily Kos

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) today announced that he has signed on as the 51st co-sponsor of ENDA. With the bill’s original sponsor Jeff Merkley (D-OR), that leaves just four Democrats in the senate who have yet to embrace one of the most crucial pieces of legislation aimed at protecting the country’s LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace.

Rockefeller, who announced earlier this year that he will not seek reelection in 2014, is the third Democrat to sign on as a co-sponsor in the last week alone. On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) became the 49th co-sponsor and on Monday Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) made it 50. The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) had been a co-sponsor of the bill as well.

The bill now has more than enough support to pass a vote in the Senate, but likely still remains a few votes shy of being able to overcome a Republican filibuster. And there is no obvious path for ENDA to clear the Republican-controlled house.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would make it illegal for any business to fire an employee on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, more than half of the states have no laws protecting LGBT employees.

With Rockefeller’s sponsorship, just four Democrats — Sens. Mark Pryor (AR), Joe Manchin (WV), Bill Nelson (FL) and Tim Johnson (SD) — have yet to sign on as sponsors. They are joined by 42 of the 44 Republicans in the Senate, with only Mark Kirk (IL) and Susan Collins (ME) co-sponsoring the bill.

And while Democratic support for ENDA builds, top Republicans continue to distance themselves from the bill. Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told ThinkProgress that he would not support ENDA, arguing that he would not support any law that provides “special protections based on orientation.” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) aired similar concerns as well, telling ThinkProgress that he doesn’t like “the federal government telling anybody to do anything.”