By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com June 11 2014 5:53 PM ET
Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey has signed on as a cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, bringing the long-languishing legislation's total House sponsors to 204.
LoBiondo's deputy chief of staff and spokesman confirmed the congressman's support to The Advocate, noting that LoBiondo voted for the bill in 2007, though notably, the legislation that year did not include nondiscrimination protections for transgender Americans.
"[Congressman LoBiondo] has been meeting with local LGBT advocates and closely reviewing the Senate-passed legislation as well as current New Jersey state law," spokesman Jason Galanes tells The Advocate. "After signaling he would support the bill on the House floor, he decided to cosponsor the legislation."
LoBiondo is the eighth House Republican to support the legislation, which would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or decline to promote an employee simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The current, trans-inclusive iteration of ENDA passed the Democrat-controlled Senate last year, but has been awaiting introduction in the House from Speaker John Boehner. Despite ongoing reports of people being fired throughout the country for being LGBT, Boehner has repeatedly claimed that he sees "no basis or need" for the legislation, telling reporters in January there was "no way" ENDA would pass this year.
But LGBT advocates eager to pass the legislation — which has been introduced in some form in every Congress but one since 1996 — are pushing to override the speaker's resistance by building a bipartisan coalition of congresspeople to sign on to the legislation, demonstrating its urgency and relevance in today's American workplace. Currently, an employer can fire a worker for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual in 29 states, while transgender people can be fired for their identity in 32 states.
"Freedom to Work has been meeting regularly with Representative LoBiondo’s office for more than a year to talk about why it’s so important for Congress to pass workplace protections for LGBT Americans, and I was thrilled to receive news today that Mr. LoBiondo has just signed on as ENDA’s eighth Republican cosponsor," Christian Berle, legislative director for the LGBT advocacy group Freedom to Work, tells The Advocate. "When I last discussed ENDA with Rep. LoBiondo, the congressman clearly understood the conservative case for giving LGBT Americans a fair shot to contribute to our economy. Representative LoBiondo is a strong conservative who understands that ENDA will simply follow the example already set by American’s top business leaders, who long ago adopted LGBT workplace protections."