Since 1994, lobbyists in Washington have unsuccessfully tried to pass ENDA, a bill protecting at first lesbians and gays and then LGBT Americans in the workplace. Even in 2009 and 2010, with Democrats in control of the White House and Congress, ENDA was not enacted.
Ironically, workplace protection could be achieved under a Republican-controlled Washington. It will not be the Equality Act, which provides unqualified LGBT equality in the workplace. The bill was endorsed by Hillary Clinton. For Republicans that endorsement and lack of a religious exemption makes it unsupportable.
The best chance for LGBT workplace protection is championed by the national Log Cabin Republicans, which has relationships with the White House and Congress. Log Cabin is lobbying for a bill, which includes both transgender protection and a religious exemption.
The passage of that bill is realistic. In 2007, the House of Representatives by a vote of 235 to 184, passed ENDA with among other Republican supporters Congressman Paul Ryan, who is now the Speaker of the House. In 2013, ENDA passed the Senate with bipartisan support including from Rob Portman (R-Ohio), whose son is gay.
While Trump has vacated executive orders, he has left in place Obama executive orders that protect transgender federal government employees and that require federal government contractors to provide LGBT Americans with workplace protections. There is ample reason to believe that he would sign the Log Cabin bill, if passed by Congress.
There are those who argue that the religious exemption is abhorrent. I concur and have publicly stated that opposition. Nonetheless, having President Trump sign the Log Cabin Republicans LGBT workplace bill sends a powerful signal to his base that LGBT Americans should be protected. After failed efforts over the past 23 years, it achieves 3/4 of a loaf.
The other major advantage is the courts. Much of our success has come through GLAD, ACLU and Lambda Legal including gays in the military, repeal of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and marriage equality.
If the Log Cabin bill is enacted, it will be for the federal courts to determine whether the so-called religious exemption violates the Constitution. With Lawrence v. Texas, Windsor v. U.S. and Obergefell v. Hodges, among others precedents, there is considerable case law to achieve through the courts the full loaf, workplace equality for LGBT Americans.
The community is well served by the Log Cabin Republicans. They deserve our strategic support.
Malcolm Lazin is executive director of Equality Forum and LGBT History Month.