Amid anticipation over the Supreme Court’s expected rulings on marriage equality, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) signaled on Tuesday that he’ll become the 53rd sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Jamal Raad, a spokesperson for the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), affirmed on Tuesday night a report in The Huffington Post that Johnson had agreed to sign on as a co-sponsor for the bill. Johnson’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.
Now only three Democrats don’t sponsor ENDA: Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). Conversely, only two Republicans co-sponsor ENDA: Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, commended Johnson for coming on board as a co-sponsor and called on the remaining Senate Democrats — particularly Nelson — to follow suit.
“It’s very hard to understand why Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida continues to stall so awkwardly on his ENDA decision, giving the people of Florida the impression that the Senior Democratic Senator might vote together with Republican Marco Rubio in opposing federal workplace protections for hardworking gay and transgender Americans,” Almeida said. “It seems absurd that after Sen. Nelson declared his support for the freedom to marry, he is still waffling on our freedom to work. With all due respect to Sen. Nelson, he should stop stalling and just do it already.”
ENDA now has a total of 52 co-sponsors, which, in addition to support from Merkley, means the Senate version of the bill has a total of 53 sponsors.
Upon Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-W.Va.) decision to sign on last week as an ENDA co-sponsor, the legislation arguably obtained more co-sponsors than any other pro-LGBT bill in the Senate in history. It has exceeded the number of co-sponsors for legislation that led to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in 2010 and the 2001 version of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
In his Pride statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who’s also signed on as an ENDA co-sponsor, pledged to take up ENDA on the Senate floor “soon.” The legislation is still in committee, but the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee is expected to report out the bill this summer.