The outlook for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — the first test vote is Monday — reflects the nation’s growing tolerance of homosexuality and the GOP’s political calculation as it looks for supporters beyond its core base of older voters.
“I think society continues to evolve on the issue of gay rights,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a co-sponsor of the measure. “As more and more gay individuals are open about their sexual orientation, people come to realize that they are their neighbors, their family members, their friends, their co-workers. That’s made a big difference.”
Opinion polls underscore Collins’ assessment. A Pew Research survey in June found that more Americans said homosexuality should be accepted rather than discouraged by society by a margin of 60 to 31 percent, or nearly 2-to-1. Opinions were more evenly divided 10 years ago.
In a sign of the times, the anti-bias legislation has traditional proponents such as the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay and lesbian advocacy group, plus the backing of a relatively new group, the American Unity Fund. That organization has the financial support of big-name Republican donors — hedge fund billionaires Paul Singer, Cliff Asness, Dan Loeb and Seth Klarman — and former GOP lawmakers Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Tom Reynolds of New York.