A new House Republican has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as LGBT advocates continue to push for a vote in the Republican-controlled chamber, the Washington Blade has learned.
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn in Congress, elected to co-sponsor the bill Monday, according to sources familiar with the legislation.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay and lead sponsor of ENDA, commended Grimm for supporting the bill, which would bar employers from discriminating against or firing workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I am happy to welcome Rep. Grimm as the 200th cosponsor of the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” Polis said. “This is common sense legislation that is supported by a majority of Americans and was passed overwhelmingly by the United States Senate. I look forward to working with Rep. Grimm and all of the co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle to pass this bill and protect all Americans from discrimination in the work place.”
Grimm’s office didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request for comment on his decision to sign on as an ENDA supporter.
Counting Polis, Grimm’s support brings the total number of sponsors in the House to 201. A total of 218 votes is necessary to pass legislation in the chamber.
Grimm is the sixth Republican co-sponsor of ENDA. The other five are Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Charles Dent (R-Pa.), Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).
Elected during the Republican wave in 2010, Grimm is generally looked upon as having an unfavorable record on LGBT issues. The Human Rights Campaign gave him a rating of “0″ in its latest congressional scorecard.
A former FBI agent who served in the 1990s Persian Gulf War as a Marine, Grimm is an opponent of same-sex marriage. He expressed his opposition in 2011 when the New York Legislature was preparing to legalize gay nuptials.
“I believe, by definition, that marriage is between a man and a woman, just as President Clinton did in 1996 when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law, defining it as such,” Grimm said.
Still, beyond his decision to back ENDA, he’s a co-sponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, legislation that would require schools to develop to policies against bullying, including the discrimination and harassment of LGBT students.
Christian Berle, legislative director for Freedom to Work, said Grimm’s co-sponsorship of ENDA reflects growing Republican support for the legislation.
“We applaud Congressman Grimm for joining the growing number of Republicans supporting LGBT workplace protections, Freedom to Work along with Log Cabin Republicans have been lobbying broadly within the House GOP Conference and we hope to build momentum with more ENDA supporters in the weeks and months to come,” Berle said.
But Grimm signs on as a co-sponsor to ENDA as he’s facing additional challenges and is being investigated for possible corruption.
The House Ethics Committee is deferring an investigation into Grimm for possible campaign finance violations to the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal probe. The New York Daily News reported earlier this month Grimm may have used “donor swapping” to skirt fundraising limits. Grimm made headlines this week after he threatened a reporter who was about to ask him about the corruption probe. The incident was caught on video in which Grimm told a NY1 reporter that he would throw him from a balcony and break him in half.
The Senate last year passed ENDA on a bipartisan basis by a 64-34 vote. Supporters have said the legislation already has the votes to pass the House, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has continually said he opposes the legislation when asked if he’ll bring it up for a vote.
Polis has previously said the best way to encourage Boehner to bring ENDA to a vote is adding additional Republican co-sponsors to the bill. Boehner’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Grimm’s sponsorship changes things in terms of a possible House vote.