June 19, 2013 at 9:32 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Rockefeller to become 52nd ENDA sponsor
United States Senate, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Jay Rockfeller is the latest U.S. senator to co-sponsor ENDA (Photos public domain)

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has signaled he’ll add his name to the growing number of lawmakers who’ve signed on as co-sponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — giving it arguably more co-sponsors than any other LGBT bill in history.

In a statement provided to Washington Blade via email, the senior senator from West Virginia confirmed that he signed would become the 52nd U.S. senator to sponsor the anti-LGBT job bias legislation.

“The fact that discrimination is tolerated anywhere in our country needs to be addressed once and for all,” Rockefeller said. “The integrity of our nation, and our ability to be a credible global leader on human rights, means that all people must be treated equally under the law.”

In the past week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) have announced they’ll co-sponsor ENDA. The legislation now has a total of 51 co-sponsors, which, in addition to support from lead sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), means the bill has a total of 52 sponsors.

The new co-sponsors means the 2013 version of ENDA now has more sponsors than the 2001 version of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act sponsored by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, which previously held the record for the most sponsors of any LGBT bill.

ENDA arguably now has more co-sponsors than any legislation in history devoted to LGBT issues — beating out the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bill, hate crimes protections legislation and the Respect for Marriage Act in terms of the number of co-sponsors.

However, the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a larger bill that included LGBT protections, had 62 sponsors, the 1990 Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act had 67 sponsors and the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which enables the collection of hate crimes data for several groups including gay people, had 61 sponsors.

Rockefeller’s co-sponsorship of ENDA is also noteworthy because West Virginia lacks any statewide LGBT employment non-discrimination protections. The other senator from the state, Sen. Joe Manchin (D), has yet to indicate whether he supports ENDA.

While the legislation has more than majority support in the days after President Obama called for passage of ENDA during the White House Pride reception, it’s still short of the 60 votes necessary. Four Democrats are still not ENDA co-sponsors: Manchin, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.).

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, commended Rockefeller for signaling his support and called on Manchin to follow suit.

“Freedom to Work applauds Sen. Rockefeller for becoming ENDA’s 52nd co-sponsor, and we call on his colleague from West Virginia, Sen. Manchin, to join the bipartisan majority of of senators supporting basic workplace protections for LGBT Americans,” Almeida said.

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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