Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado today became the seventh member of the House GOP caucus to announce that he would vote in favor of the long-languishing Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support last year, but which House speaker John Boehner has refused to bring to the floor.
In a statement to Politico, Coffman said he supports ENDA because it is the legal embodiment of the "Golden Rule."
"I see this legislation as the workplace equivalent of the Golden Rule — do unto others, as you would have them do unto you," Coffman told Politico. "In the workplace, in 2014, we should judge employees the way we would want to be judged — based on our qualifications, our contributions and by our character, period."
Coffman represents the state's Sixth Congressional District, a sizable, competitive district that includes several counties south and east of Denver, the state capital. Politico notes that Coffman has softened several of his more conservative stances recently, endorsing more humane immigration reform and backing away from his carte-blanche opposition to abortion. Politico speculates that Coffman's evolution on those issues has much to do with efforts to court moderates, as popular and left-leaning Democrat Andrew Romanoff, an LGBT ally, is challenging Coffman for hisseat this November.
Nevertheless, LGBT workplace equality organization Freedom to Work commended Coffman for supporting, telling The Advocate that its organizers have met with Coffman and his staff numerous times over the past several months. Freedom to Work also confirmed that Coffman is the seventh Republican in the House of Representatives to state his support for ENDA outright — though the group contends there are additional conservative members of Congress who have privately expressed support.
"We applaud Congressman Coffman for supporting the freedom to work without discrimination for all Americans," said Christian Berle, the legislative director of Freedom to Work, who happens to be a Republican. "When I met with the Congressman to discuss this legislation, he impressed me with his conservative case for giving LGBT Americans a fair shot to contribute to our economy. He’s a strong conservative who understands that ENDA is good for business and the right thing to do."
Statewide LGBT organization One Colorado praised the congressman's stance as well.
"Protecting against discrimination in the workplace isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue — it’s common sense," said One Colorado executive director Dave Montez in a statement. "Congressman Coffman’s announcement today in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act brings his views in alignment with a strong majority of Americans who believe that workers should be judged on their job performance alone, and nothing else. As a non-partisan organization, we welcome Congressman Coffman’s announcement and commend support for equality across the ideological spectrum. It’s time for Congress to move forward and pass ENDA now, to extend the same basic workplace protections we’ve already passed here in Colorado to all LGBT Americans."