June 14, 2013 at 9:39 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Reid becomes 50th ENDA sponsor
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is the 50th sponsor of ENDA. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is the 50th ENDA sponsor. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) gave the Employment Non-Discrimination Act a noteworthy boost late Thursday when he signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

Reid’s backing gives ENDA a total of 49 co-sponsors, which, in addition to the support from chief sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) means an even 50 senators are committed to supporting the proposal.

In a statement provided to the Washington Blade, Reid said he’s co-sponsoring ENDA to put an end to LGBT workplace discrimination and will work to lead the bill to passage in the Senate.

“No one should face discrimination in their workplace based on sexual orientation,” Reid said. “It’s time to make fairness the law of the land. That is why I am co-sponsoring this legislation and I will do everything I can to ensure that it passes the Senate.”

Reid has previously supported ENDA, but hadn’t before lent his name as a co-sponsor of the bill. His co-sponsorship is particularly noteworthy because as Senate Democratic leader, he normally doesn’t co-sponsor bills — even the ones he supports.

The Democratic leader’s co-sponsorship is also significant because it means ENDA has the exact same number of co-sponsors as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation in 2010 that eventually became law.

Laura Martin, a spokesperson for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, commended Reid for signing on in support of ENDA in the aftermath of Nevada legalizing statewide protections against anti-trans bias in the workplace.

“Sen. Harry Reid has long supported ENDA and we’re proud of him for co-sponsoring the legislation; its a good indication the bill will pass,” Martin said. “We did the work in Nevada to protect LGBTQs from discrimination by passing a state-wide trans-inclusive ENDA. Its past due time all Americans have same protections. We’re ready to do the work to get this done.”

Still, ENDA has opposition in the Senate.

On the same day that Reid announced he would co-sponsor the bill, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told ThinkProgress he opposes legislation that would give employment protections to people who are gay.

“I haven’t read the legislation,” Rubio said. “By and large I think all Americans should be protected but I’m not for any special protections based on orientation.”

Earlier this week, in a statement commemorating June as Pride month, Reid said he “look[s] forward to taking up” ENDA “soon.”

Speaking with reporters in May, Reid revealed that he has a lesbian niece and believes her employment “shouldn’t be affected” by her sexual orientation. At the time, he said there’s “a chance” the bill would come to the Senate floor this year.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, also commended Reid for co-sponsoring ENDA.

“Freedom to Work applauds Sen. Harry Reid for his strong leadership on LGBT workplace fairness and his sponsorship of the bipartisan and fully inclusive ENDA,” Almeida said. “Getting to 50 Senate sponsors is a big deal. With this wind at our backs, I think we are going to get to 60 Senate votes by September.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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