Republicans Remain Silent As Obama Plans To Extend LGBT Employment Protections


The White House indicated Monday that President Obama will soon issue an executive order protecting the LGBT employees of federal contractors from workplace discrimination, and the silence from the right has been deafening.

Only two Republican lawmakers, Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT) and Susan Collins (ME), have expressed any concern whatsoever about the impending order. Both actually voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate last November. Hatch’s specific concerns related to exemptions he hopes will allow religious organizations unprecedented privilege to continue discriminating against LGBT people. Collins simply feels the executive order will not do enough, once again urging the House to take up ENDA.

On Fox News, the executive order only received a brief mention in a news update by Bret Baier on Special Report. He did not cite any concerns about the order nor highlight any opposition to it.

A few religious right organizations did react in typical fashion. The Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg warned that the order will impact the “constitutional freedoms of religion, speech, and association” and expose employers to “threats of costly legal proceedings.” Focus on the Family told the Huffington Post it expects lawmakers will react once the executive order is made public, while Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition wasn’t concerned because he is still optimistic ENDA won’t pass in the Republican-controlled House.

But the Republican silence so far may indicate that Reed’s faith that a majority in the House would reject ENDA is misplaced. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told ThinkProgress back in November that he believes that ENDA would easily pass in the House if Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) ever allowed a vote. Boehner has said there is “no way” that happens this year.

Opposing the executive order would put Republicans in the position of defending those who wish to refuse employment to LGBT people, whether for religious reasons or otherwise. When Arizona considered a bill that would have propped up such discrimination, national backlash prompted Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to veto it. Legislatures in about ten other states — including several under Republican control — abandoned similar bills that would have legally empowered employers to discriminate against LGBT customers and employees.

Though the party line hasn’t changed, Republicans are trumpeting their opposition to LGBT equality less and less frequently. Senate Republican candidates, for example, have voiced very little support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, despite the fact many of them have previously supported such a measure. Reeling from its losses in the 2012 election, the Republican Party spent much of 2013 discussing ways to sound “inclusive” and sugarcoat their anti-LGBT rhetoric in “grace, love and respect” without actually changing their positions. Some in the party advocated staying quiet on issues like same-sex marriage altogether. Many seem to be following that tactic this week.