Boehner recognises importance of civil rights but won’t bring ENDA to a vote

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US House Speaker John Boehner recognizes the importance of the Civil Rights Act, yet he continues to refuse to bring the ENDA up for a vote.

At the 50th anniversary celebration of the Civil Rights Act on Tuesday, Republican House Speaker John Bohner spoke about the importance of civil rights.

He said: “On July 2, 1964, Congress completed what may be the most fundamental, most consequential legislation of our long history. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes that every citizen has the right to pursue happiness without discrimination, or segregation, on the grounds of race, colour, religion or national origin.”

The Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment, housing and public services. Although Bohner supports this historic bill, Bohner’s November statement addressing his lack of support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, contradicts Tuesday’s sentiment:

“I think this legislation that I’ve dealt with as chairman of The Education & The Workforce Committee long before I was back in the leadership is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits. People are already protected in the workplace. I’m opposed to continuing this. Listen, I understand people have differing opinions on this issue, and I respect those opinions. But as someone who’s worked in the employment law area for all my years in the State House and all my years here, I see no basis or no need for this legislation.”

Wade Henderson, the President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, was quoted by the Washington Blade saying: “Speaker Boehner should be applauded for extolling the virtues of the Civil Rights Act, but that acknowledgement comes with a responsibility to ensure that no worker is denied employment protections and that no citizen is denied the right to vote. Speaker Boehner’s words will be empty should he continue to be a roadblock to passage of ENDA, immigration reform, and the Voting Rights Amendment Act.”

Due to the similarities in the content of these two bills, it remains unclear why Bohner supports one and not the other. When asked by a Blade reporter Michael Steel, a Bohner spokesperson, said: “I think the Speaker’s position on that legislation is clear.”