US: Republican candidate breaks ranks to back discharge petition for anti-discrimination bill

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An out Republican congressional candidate has broken ranks with his party to support a discharge petition for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The law, which would protect LGBT workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, is being blocked by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who refuses to bring it to a vote.

This week, Democrats filed a discharge petition in an attempt to force a vote on the issue, which needs to gather 218 votes to overrule Boehner.

However, despite the backing of 190 Democrats, it is yet to be signed by a single Republican – even those that co-sponsored ENDA itself.

However, Republican Carl DeMaio – who is running to oust Democrat Scott Peters in California’s 52nd congressional district – has given his support to the measure.

He told the Washington Blade: “I want to see a vote on a bill to end discrimination against gay, lesbian, transgender people in employment.

“We have countless states, I think 31 states, that make it legal for you to terminate someone because of sexual orientation. In modern America, that’s completely unacceptable, so I do believe we have to update our laws and strike a blow for full respect and equality.”

When asked whether he would sign the petition, he said: “Yeah. But what I want to do is make this something that is an idea whose time has come. I want to touch hearts, so we can change minds.

“[The discharge petition] will be an avenue that we will use to make sure we get a vote on this important legislation.”

A number of LGBT rights organisations pulled their support of ENDA this past summer, saying that the religious exemptions currently in place could allow businesses to continue to discriminate against LGBT employees.

 In July, Barack Obama signed an Executive Order banning workplace discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The order however only applies to federal contractors.

In February this year, DeMaio become the first of his party to feature his same-sex partner in a political ad.