May 10, 2014 at 6:49 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Innis would sign ENDA discharge petition

Dan Innis, Republican Party, New Hampshire, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Dan Innis has pledged to sign a discharge petition for ENDA (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key).

A gay Republican candidate seeking to represent New Hampshire in Congress has sworn to sign a discharge petition for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to ensure the bill gets a vote on the House floor.

Dan Innis, who’s competing for the Republican nomination to run for New Hampshire’s 2nd congressional district, told the Washington Blade on Friday he’d support employing the obscure House maneuver for ENDA, which would allow the bill’s supporters to skirt House leadership to bring the bill to the floor.

Asked via phone whether he’d sign a discharge petition for ENDA, Innis replied, “Yes.”

“I think, absolutely, this thing needs to be brought to a vote, so I would get behind that in a heartbeat,” Innis added.

There have been mixed reactions among Republicans over a potential discharge petition for ENDA, which hasn’t even yet been filed for the bill despite calls from some LGBT advocates.

Another gay Republican running for Congress, Richard Tisei in Massachusetts, has said he’d wouldn’t hesitate to sign a discharge petition for the bill.

But no Republican currently sitting in Congress has said they’d sign a discharge petition, even those who co-sponsor the legislation. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the Republican original co-sponsor for ENDA, has signaled she wouldn’t a sign a discharge petition “as it is a partisan political tool.”

One perception of the discharge petition is that it’s a criticism of House leadership and Republicans who sign would risk being in trouble with party leaders.

But Innis said he isn’t worried about any reprisal from top Republicans over supporting a discharge petition for ENDA.

“If there would be a majority in Congress that believes this thing should come to a vote, I can’t imagine that would upset the party leadership,” Innis said. “It should come to a vote if that’s the case.”

Innis would first need to win election to Congress for him to be able to sign a discharge petition, and he wouldn’t be seated until early next year. Considering Republicans are expected to win seats in the U.S. Senate election, he’d be supporting a discharge petition at a time when even Senate passage of ENDA would be less likely.

Nonetheless, Innis emphasized his support for ENDA, saying the bill — which would bar employers from discriminating against LGBT workers — would be effective at eliminating discrimination in the workforce.

“I think any sort of legislation that reduces the potential for discrimination is a good thing, and this is a perfect example of an opportunity for discrimination to exist that shouldn’t,” Innis said. “And I think ENDA moves up in the right direction toward reducing opportunities for abuse — and that’s always a positive thing.”

Innis has previously articulated support for ENDA, but hasn’t before said anything about a discharge petition. He’s also been reluctant to call for an executive order from President Obama barring LGBT discrimination among federal contractors, saying, “I’m not a big fan of executive orders generally speaking.”

Although Innis joins Tisei in support for an ENDA discharge petition, the two by no means are on the same page. Tisei has formed a joint fundraising committee with conservative Republican Frank Guinta, who’s competing against Innis for the Republican nomination to run for Congress in New Hampshire.

The committee is known as the New England Majority Fund was registered with the Federal Election Commission on April 9.

Unlike Innis, Guinta opposes same-sex marriage, as well as abortion rights, and is considered to have aligned himself with the ultra-conservative Tea Party. His campaign didn’t respond to a request to comment on ENDA or whether he’d a back a discharge petition for the bill.

Innis said he’s “obviously disappointed” that Tisei is helping Guinta raise money, saying the candidate has vociferously expressed opposition to same-sex marriage.

“I think if Richard wants to be seen as a champion of LGBT rights, he ought to convince Frank Guinta to support the freedom to marry before he decides to do a fundraiser for him,” Innis said. “The values that each of them bring to this are diametrically opposed, and it doesn’t make sense to me that they would team up to do this, and it doesn’t make sense to me that Richard Tisei would partner someone who is running against a candidate who clearly supports marriage equality.”

The primary between Innis and Guinta is set for Sept. 9. Whoever wins the Republican nomination will go on to face Democratic incumbent Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.). She’s both a supporter of marriage equality and ENDA.

Another gay Republican running for Congress, Carl DeMaio, has yet to articulate a position on an ENDA discharge petition. Asked Wednesday by the Blade whether he sign a petition, Dave McCullough, a DeMaio spokesperson, replied, “Carl will do more than that…stay tuned.” No updates were provided as of Saturday.

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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