Why The ENDA Senate Vote Is Really Bad News For The Religious Right

saltlaketemplepainted630While we take half of a victory lap around today’s ENDA’s vote, it’s worth pondering one of the longer-term implication of the success in the Senate: the religious right’s inability to have a greater impact on the debate. There are two items of bad news for the antigay movement to come out of the vote. One is the split among Mormon senators. The other is the almost total silence of opponents of the measure.

Calling the Mormon Church an opponent of the gay rights movement is a massive understatement. But of the seven Senators who are Mormon, five of them voted to pass ENDA: Harry Reid, Tom Udall, Dean Heller, Jeff Flake and Orrin Hatch. (Mike Lee and Michael Crapo voted no.) Now Reid and Udall are Democrats, so you could argue their votes were to be expected, but the remaining three are Republicans. In particular, Hatch represents Utah, which is virtually synonymous with the Mormon Church, so he’s not likely to be taking positions that are going to enrage the Church.

In interviews with the LGBT press this week, Reid said, “When I attend church here in Washington, D.C., I bet more people agree with me than disagree with me, and so the church is changing, and that’s good.” That’s probably true. But the Church leadership seems to be sending a signal as well, and that signal is that it is backing off some gay issues. It’s still out there banging the drum against marriage equality, but workplace discrimination doesn’t seem worth the fight.

That’s not good news to Christian conservatives who oppose anything gay. They are dependent upon a philosophy that all things LGBT are universally deplorable and need to be stopped at all costs. If Mormons start peeling off from that group, it will be a lot smaller.

And it may be smaller than evangelicals want anyway. The second big story to come out of the ENDA vote was the silence of opponents. Only Dan Coats from Indiana got up on the Senate floor to oppose the bill. “Do we want to support policies that discriminate against an employer’s religious beliefs and require employers to hire individuals who contradict their very most deeply held religious beliefs?” Coats said, as if allowing LGBT people to earn a living violates Biblical principle.

Needless to say, the religious right is furious with the lack of spine on display. Ralph Reed, still looking for a comeback as a credible figure, said in an op-ed that ENDA is “a dagger aimed at the heart of religious freedom for millions of Americans.” You’d never know that from the crickets’ chirps emanating from the Senate floor. The ever reliable Bryan Fischer proclaimed himself “mystified and deeply disappointed” by the lack of pitched battle over ENDA.

What the silence shows is that, even though they still oppose gay rights, a lot of Republicans realize that talking about drag queens working in Christian bookstores just makes them look ridiculous nowadays. It would be interesting to know whether the American Unity Fund, the GOP group pushing the party on gay issues, convinced some opponents of the wisdom of keeping their traps shut even if it didn’t convince them to change sides.

None of this is good for the religious right in the long term. A division among allies, the silence of Republican leaders, and on top of that a highly publicized and symbolically important loss, all in the same week that another state approves marriage equality. It couldn’t happen to a better bunch.


Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #bryanfischer #dancoats #deanheller stories and more


  • Paul F

    They need to remove the religious exemptions, period. Can you imagine the results if the civil rights of blacks had that loophole in it? Your skin color is against my firmly held beliefs in my religious hospital, please remove your bleeding battered body from our lobby before we have you arrested for trespassing. Yeah right.

  • Daniel-Reader

    So Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana wants Mormon businesspeople to be able to turn away black people, and Muslim businesspeople to be able to turn away Christians? That is sad. What a bigot.

  • Jerry12

    From reading this article of the Senate’s vote, and some other recent articles, I am getting the impression that average Religious Americans are beginning to understand that the Bible, and the Bigoted preachings of the “Cult” Religions are not what God really had in mind when HE (She, or IT) created Homosexuals.

  • DuMaurier

    To say Mormons are being quiet about ENDA because “workplace discrimination doesn’t seem worth the fight” may be accurate in their specific case, but the fact is this issue has always been way less controversial than marriage equality, even among conservatives.

    Way back in 1978, here in California, the Briggs Initiative (which would have banned gays from teaching in public schools)looked like it was going to pass until Ronald Reagan and other conservatives publicly stated their opposition. It’s universally agreed that this was the decisive factor in its defeat. And despite the cynical, repellant politicking we’re already seeing from the House leadership over ENDA, polls consistently show ordinary Republicans support it by large margins.

  • jwtraveler

    Maybe all the gay Mormon-haters have misjudged them. Being opposed to gay marriage doesn’t mean that you’re anti-gay or in favor of discrimination.

  • greybat

    No, it probably does.

  • 2eo

    @jwtraveler: Yes it does. I challenge you to post one reason that isn’t because you hate homosexuality.

    I’ve never seen one, and neither has anyone else, anywhere.

  • Ottoman

    @Paul F: they did try that back in the day. Julian Bond wrote about it recently:

    “ENDA follows in the mold of life-changing civil rights laws that, for decades, have prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, age and disability. However, there are some who feel that ENDA must allow religiously affiliated organizations — far beyond churches, synagogues and mosques — to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people.

    We haven’t accepted this in the past, and we must not today.”

    “Indeed, during consideration of the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964 (and again in 1972), there were attempts to provide religious organizations with a blank check to engage in discrimination in hiring on the basis of race, sex and national origin — like the one now proposed for ENDA — and both times we said no to those efforts. We weren’t willing to compromise on equality. We weren’t willing to say that African-Americans were only mostly equal. Today’s struggles are similar in that we shouldn’t accept only partial equality for LGBT people.

    Let me be clear. Religious liberty is one of our most cherished values.

    It guarantees all of us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs. But it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others. Religious liberty, contrary to what opponents of racial equality argued then and LGBT equality argue now, is not a license to use religion to discriminate.”

  • AuntieChrist

    Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is clearly unconstitutional so I think we will keep that. Honey, I have been around too long to get all giddy with joy. The next president will be a republican and they do not believe in the separation of church and state. They will be quiet and lick their wounds, but the goddess help us come 2016.

  • Cam

    Interesting how an article that should have been about how opposing gay rights has become a bad way to stay in office was turned by Queerty into yet ANOTHER article on “Look, the Mormon Church and Mormons really aren’t against you.”

    I guess the fact that the Church was ACTIVELY involved in trying to thwart Hawaii’s gay rights bill just days ago somehow was missed.

    But far be it from me to be surprised at every single desperate attempt by Queerty to soften the image of this church.

    Oh, and a part that Queerty left out is that Hatch would ONLY change is vote after he was unable to find anything directly against gays working in Doctrine. Is it concerning to anybody else that he will only vote after he has cleared it with his reading of scripture?

Comments are closed.