U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that bans discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The measure passed the Senate 64-32 on Thursday.
“Making ENDA law will be the next significant step in the fight for equality for LGBT Americans,” Franken said in a floor speech hours before the vote.
“After decades of struggle, we have achieved a number of huge victories in rapid succession – ending ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’; overturning the federal ban on same-sex marriage recognition; the achievement of marriage equality in more and more states, including my home state of Minnesota.”
The Senate vote is a victory for gay rights advocates, but the excitement has been tempered by political reality: the bill is unlikely to come up for a vote in the Republican-led House. Speaker John Boehner, a staunch opponent of the bill, has argued that the legislation would spark a spate of frivolous lawsuits for businesses.
“The Minnesota experience shows that those fears are unfounded,” Franken said. “There has not been a flood of lawsuits, because the rights of LGBT Minnesotans are widely respected … Minnesota is basically the same as it was before this law passed, expect that it is better because LGBT Minnesotans are free from discrimination at work.”
Current federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin. But it doesn’t stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire workers because they are gay, bisexual or transgender.
The bill passed Thursday would prevent employers with 15 or more workers from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions, including job promotions and pay. The military and religious institutions are exempt.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken was among the Senate Democrats who met with President Obama and Vice President Biden on Wednesday to talk about the federal health care overhaul and “existing challenges with implementation of the Affordable Care Act," according to the White House.
Franken said he expressed his displeasure at the meeting.
“I, along with the Senators at the meeting, expressed frustration with the performance of the federal website," he said in a statement released from his office.
"I also made it clear that, while MNsure.org appears to be running more smoothly than the federal website, I want to make certain that the pieces of the federal system that interface with MNsure are working as well as possible," said Franken, who was among 16 senators who met with Obama.
Although Franken has been a supporter of ObamaCare, according to one report, he was “visibly agitated” last month when meeting with Obama’s chief of staff to discuss the problem with the roll out.
On Wednesday he said: "I will continue to hold the Administration accountable as it fixes the federal site."
According to the White House, during the meeting:
"The President emphasized that he shared the Senators’ commitment to ensuring that Americans who want to enroll in health insurance through the Marketplaces are able to do so in time for insurance coverage to start as early as January 1st, and throughout the open enrollment period which goes through March 31. He also discussed ongoing efforts to ramp up communication and education outreach to consumers who have received or might receive letters about how their individual market plans might be affected. In addition, the President also reiterated that the Administration is working to protect the privacy and security of consumers and to ensure that online Marketplace applications are protected by stringent security standards, with ongoing testing to help safeguard personal information."
Star Tribune reporter Kevin Diaz contributed to this report.
Minnesotan and CEO of RBC Wealth Management John G. Taft (yes, of those political Tafts) raised some eyebrows this month by writing an opinion piece called “The cry of the true Republican” late last month in the New York Times.
The harsh piece on the current Republican brand also raised the question: Is John G. Taft thinking about running for office? The answer is an unequivocal: no.
“I am not running for, thinking about or involved in politics in the state,” Taft said.
He said his piece for the Times was broader than partisanship and politics.
“My message in that article wasn’t about the Republican Party, even though that was the theme,” he said. ”My message was about responsible behavior and responsible leadership and that really is what’s lacking right now in Washington.”
He said, while he is not aiming for office, he is politically engaged. He is a member of the Itaska Project, he said he is engaged in “an effort to retool the financial system so it’s a force for good in society rather than being a force that disrupts the economy and people’s lives" and had been very involved in working to defeat last year’s constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage.
Last year, Taft gave at least $25,000 to the successful Minnesota campaign to defeat the constitutional amendment. In the previous 14 years, he had donated $8,875 to Minnesota causes and candidates, which included contributions to Democratic, Republican and Independence Party candidates.
As the U.S. Senate considers symbolic, if ultimately futile federal legislation that would ban discrimination against gay workers, Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar has commissioned a report taking a bottom-line business look at the issue.
“Discriminating against LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] workers is not only morally wrong, it’s also bad for business and hurts our economy,” Klobuchar said as part of the rollout of a four-page report on the economic impact of workplace discrimination.
The report was prepared by the Democratic staff of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, of which Klobuchar is vice-chair. Although the committee’s name gives it a vaguely bicameral and bipartisan air, Republicans on the panel, including U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., had nothing to do with it.
The Democratic-led Senate is expected to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) this week with some Republican help. But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he will not bring the bill to the House floor.
The report appears to anticipate the arguments of House Republicans, some of whom have pivoted from traditional moral objections to homosexuality to opposition based on states’ rights or ENDA’s potential for bad-for-business litigation.
Though ostensibly “Klobuchar’s report,” the document is a compilation of existing research, including a 2013 Pew Research Center survey finding that one in five LGBT employees say they have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.
The report also cites a 2007 Level Playing Field survey finding that employee turnover due to various forms of workplace discrimination costs U.S. companies about $64 billion a year.
Occasional press speculation about U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's prospects as a 2016 presidential contender has taken a new twist in light of recent reports that she signed on to a “private” letter with 15 other women in the Senate urging Hillary Rodham Clinton to run.
The letter, first reported by ABC News, also includes the signatures of potential Democratic rivals Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
Reportedly organized by Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, the letter has the signatures of all the female Democrats in the Senate.
Although Klobuchar not infrequently makes it onto speculative media lists as a third-tier presidential contender, aides say she has publicly urged Clinton to run before.