A Republican lawyer who has gained notoriety for leading marriage equality lawsuits is lending his name to another LGBT cause: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Ted Olson, who argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court and just this week joined another lawsuit seeking marriage equality in Virginia, announced he backs ENDA during a conference call with reporters on Monday about his new lawsuit with the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Asked by the Washington Blade whether he supports ENDA, which would prohibit employers from discriminating against LGBT workers, Olson initially replied simply, “Yes.”
“I feel very, very strongly that this country ought to stop discriminating against our citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation,” Olson continued. “It is unfair, it’s unreasonable, it’s unacceptable. It serves no purpose and it does a great deal of harm.”
Olson endorses ENDA on the day that the Americans for Workplace Opportunity, a campaign seeking to pass the legislation, made public new polling from Republican pollster Target Point Consulting. Among the findings: 68 percent of voters, including 56 percent of Republicans, support a federal law barring LGBT workplace discrimination.
Olson’s support for ENDA makes him one of those Republicans. He served as solicitor general under former President George W. Bush after representing the former president in the 2000 case Bush v. Gore, which led to Bush winning the White House.
Further, Olson helped the Romney campaign during the 2012 presidential election by impersonating Vice President Joseph Biden during debate prep with then-GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Americans for Workplace Opportunity, said Olson’s endorsement demonstrates ENDA has significant bipartisan support.
“Ted Olson’s support amplifies the bipartisan momentum to pass ENDA,” McTighe said. “He joins the strong majority of Republicans, according to the poll we released this morning, who believe in protecting gay and transgender employees in the workplace. ENDA is both good for business and the right thing to do.”
The Target Point Consulting poll also found 8 in 10 voters incorrectly believe that it’s currently illegal under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone for being gay or transgender. Additionally, the poll projects that ENDA enjoys majority support in all 50 states.
Olson’s endorsement also comes at a time when a Senate vote on ENDA is anticipated this fall. Amid expectations that ENDA will pass the Senate, observers anticipate a more difficult fight in the House, where Republicans have control.
Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, commended Olson for coming on board in support of ENDA and said the news could move Republicans to back the legislation.
“Freedom to Work applauds Ted Olson for joining the growing number of Republicans who support national workplace protections for LGBT Americans,” Almeida said. “Mr. Olson campaigned for the McCain presidential campaign, and we hope Sen. McCain will be among the Republicans who vote in favor of ENDA this fall.”