Alex Blaze

Congress and the public don't see eye-to-eye on ENDA

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 02, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, The Movement
Tags: bob barrett, ENDA, government, orrin hatch, polling, state, utah

Update: People are providing links to state-level anti-discrimination legislation in the comments. If you know of any, please pass it along. I'd like to see how much there is and make another post out of it, since the numbers are all good.

More evidence that politicians are falling behind their populations on anti-discrimination legislation came from the Salt Lake Tribune. 66% of Utah's population supports laws like ENDA. They were asked about the state-level, although I doubt they have a large population of die-hard federalists who'd be willing to make a harsh distinction between the state and federal government on this issue.

UTAH-ENDA-POLL.pngBut there isn't much polling done on the issue of anti-discrimination laws. The most recent national survey I could find said 89% (that's from Gallup in 2008, the LA Times in 2004 found 72% of Americans supported such laws, showing either a high margin of error or quick progress) of Americans support anti-discrimination laws for LGB people, a Lake and Associates poll from 2002 said 61% of Americans supported anti-discrimination legislation for trans people. That's not much polling, not compared to the gobs and gobs of polls done to keep our collective finger on society's reaction to same-sex marriage (even searching for "ENDA poll" or some variation of it turns up pages of marriage polls). Civil unions and DADT also get periodic polling done on them, and I had to dig quite a bit just to find the polls on anti-discrimination that I already knew existed.

State-level polls are even harder to find, considering that there have been few state-level campaigns for anti-discrimination legislation. Yesterday's SLT poll is the only recent poll I know about. Shocking, isn't it, that Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, Utah's arch-conservative US Senators, won't be voting for ENDA any time soon. Although if we believe that legislators always follow their constituents on every issue, then it should be.

And if we lived in a functioning democracy, it'd be even more shocking to find that this law hasn't already passed. Utah is one of the more socially conservative states in the country, almost the reddest of the red without much of a gay-friendly reputation, and yet a stunning majority of people who live there oppose discrimination against gays. What does that say about states that have fewer problems with the gays whose Senators won't vote for ENDA? Just what percentage of the population of their state are they opposing to keep this bill from passing?

I'm most likely unaware of some state polling that's been done on anti-discrimination legislation; if you know about any, please link in the comments. But this is the only wide-scale study that I know about that went state-by-state on this issue:


But this isn't polling data, or at least not directly. These people extrapolated those numbers from larger national polls, and I'm not quite sure how they did it although they seem like smart statistics nerds who wouldn't just make up numbers. Although considering how much Utah's moved (some of the various data used to calculate where states stand on each of these issues goes all the way back to 1994), it's either inaccurate or just dated, with every state more supportive now.

And then there was this survey from 2007 of Republicans that found that the majority of the party supported anti-discrimination legislation:

In a remarkable show of unity on a bill that will come up for a vote in the U.S. House this summer, an overwhelming 77% of Republicans believe an employer should not have the right to fire an employee based solely on their sexual orientation. Even among social conservatives, 67% don't believe an employer should be able to fire someone for being gay.

And yet we don't see anywhere near a majority of the Republicans in Congress supporting ENDA.

This legislation should be a slam-dunk, and yet they're stalling and hawing and hemming on the issue. Like most people, I really don't know why they're stalling because their policy-level excuses don't make much sense and it's not like they have an angry public to worry about. The political decision here isn't that hard: most people won't even notice this bill passing while LGBT people would be a lot happier with the Democratic Party if Congress did.* The small number of social conservatives who oppose it shouldn't be weighing too heavily on the minds of most Senators.

This does show that the reasons they oppose are more likely related to personal anxiety with the gays, since members of Congress trend older and richer than the rest of society, as well as possible worries that passing such legislation would upset some businesses who don't see this as anything more than a source of lawsuits.

Other than that, we're all just reading tea leaves here. Although more state-level polling would be helpful to push certain Senators along.

Update: Angela Brightfeather points to this North Carolina poll in the comments. Although it's from 2001, it still came out with good results and was trans-inclusive:

The poll of 2000 North Carolinians, conducted October 14-17 by The Lucas Organization (formerly Rasmussen Research), found that 61% of North Carolinians believe it should not be legal to refuse public employment to someone on the basis of sexual orientation; only 26% believe it should be legal. 56% said such discrimination should not be legal in private employment as well, with 31% believing it should be legal.

A recent poll for the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 76% of people nationally support legislation banning such discrimination.

The Equality NC poll also showed a high level of support for legislation banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity. 68% of respondents felt such discrimination should be illegal in public employment, and 61% in private. Gender identity refers to exhibiting characteristics usually associated with the opposite gender; that is, either a man who exhibits certain feminine traits or a woman who exhibits more masculine traits.

NC's Sen. Kay Hagan (D) has been going back and forth on this one, and is the only US senator I know of who has mentioned gender identity as a specific reason she may oppose this legislation. Their other senator, Richard Burr (R), is against ENDA.

Massachusetts was polled on transgender anti-discrimination legislation by Lake Research Partners in late 2009:


Massachusetts's Sen. John Kerry (D) is a cosponsor while no one's bothered to ask Scott Brown (R), although we know his thoughts on DADT and marriage from several angles.

JennyC points to this poll of Ohio conducted in 2006 by Glengariff that rolled trans and gay protections into one question:

66% of Ohio registered voters believe that laws should be passed banning discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Ohio's Sen. Brown (D) is a cosponsor while Sen. Voinovich (R) has been wavering enough to be one of Jillian Weiss's "Legislator of the Day" three times last year.

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Little polling on LGB, no polling on T.

There was the Lake and Associates poll from before the jump, but other than that I don't know of any. And it's old.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | February 2, 2010 1:51 PM

That's because the public doesn't have lobbyists backing up trucks filled with money into their driveways in order to influence their opinion. The system has gotten so corrupted and how exactly do you take the money out of politics when it takes the votes of those very same corrupted politicians to do it? It's simpler in Utah though. If the Mormon church doesn't want it, it ain't gonna happen. Between the theocrats and the moneybags, ENDA never had a chance.

Angela Brightfeather | February 2, 2010 2:34 PM


Find the poll that Equality NC did in cooperation with funding from HRC. That says a lot and it is a state poll that was taken and it includes specific questions about Trans people and employment. The poll is supposed to be available from their web site at Equality NC.

I attribute the lack of support politically to the lack of backbone among the Democrat so-called sponsors of ENDA. It is the quintessential example of Democrats being afraid to push on legislation before the mid term elections if it has anything to do with equal rights and discrimination issues.

SSM and DADT have almost achieved a life of their own right now in the media and those that follow them or have a stake in them, which is a very small number of people since almost 50% of GLBT people don't even want to get married and probably 5% of all GLBT people are interested in a career in the military. Of all three issues, ENDA is the only one that directly affects all GLBT people and it has the least support. Of course coincidently, SSM and DADT also hardly ever include talk about Trans people being affected by those issues although they are. Which gets us to the heart of the problem. The only legislation that everyone is walking away from is the one that will affect them the most thoroughly and universaly and is inclusive. I have no doubt that if ENDA was not inclusive of Trans people, then Frank, Baldwin, HRC, NGLTF and many others would be pounding the pavement and breaking down doors to get it passed.

Instead, ENDA is being pushed by what was the main proponents and those affected the most by it, into a special place, in a big old box, right behind where they put the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark, despite the screaming of Indiana Jones and every Transgender person in the country.

I am sorry Alex, but it seems pretty hypocritical to me to be yelling about legislators in Utah not performing to the intent of their constituents, when our own GLBT politicos don't perform to the tune of 98% of their constituents for the sake of less than 50% fo their constituents.

A statewide poll conducted in 2006 for Equality Ohio (link below) mirrored that 66% support here in Ohio. Are you listening, Congress and Ohio Senate?

Statewide polling for all 50 States on LGBT-issues is one of the answers for our full equality and it has begun. It will be helpful to know exactly what people think in each State. That information will change politicians votes, not emails, calls or protests.

Polling is much more important (and effective) than lobbying. A few of us have been trying to get HRC to do this for several years. They refused. I guess if I was a lobbyist, I'd refuse, too.

You know I am sure everyone has heard the term, follow the money. My guess is the money is not behind ENDA. It is that plain and simple. There is little upside to passing it for business and a potential downside. Given that LGBT persons are a minority it is far easier to keep throwing little bones to us like appointments and so on, but when it comes to a real dollar and cents issue it is the old don't call us, we'll call you treatment.
As far as polls, well I do not believe polls pass legislation. I also believe that many bigots will not show their hand to a pollster. Besides what are the politicians going to dangle in front of the LGBT community when the next election comes around and they need that few percent we might add?

The fact remains that marriage equality fights attract donation dollars more than nondiscrimination fights, especially those big checks from well to do GLB people who think they have no need of civil rights protection and are very interested in the property protection and tax breaks of legal marriage. These are the donations that fund GLB(t) organizations and the polls they commission. It's no surprise to me that ENDA polling is practically nonexistent.

When the portion of the GLB community who live in unstable and fearful economic situations because their state doesn't cover them in nondiscrimination law joins with the gender variant portion of the population in demanding more attention from the moneyed GLB interests - and back the noise up with targeted donations or the withholding of money - then maybe the HRC et al will begin to do more than provide lip service to the vital civil rights protections we so desperately need. Until then, they have little motivation to work for these interests.