With Democrats in control of Congress, both liberal and conservative experts believe that two legislative measured designed to advance gay rights will win congressional approval this year. A bill to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation titled the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is currently the subject of private congressional negotiations. ENDA would cover workplace discrimination based on both sexual discrimination and gender identity.

For many Americans, the provisions in ENDA are already in place. 85% of Fortune 500 companies have already banned discriminated based on sexual orientation. Seventeen states and many local governments also prohibit this form of discrimination. The controversy surrounding this bill has long been based around transgender employees. Some Democrats are confident that as long as proper employer provisions for dress codes and restroom usage are included in the bill, it will pass without issue.

The other measure that is expected to pass is an expansion of the hate crimes bill to cover offenses motivated by gay bias. The bill would expand existing federal laws to include acts of violence against gays and lesbians. I would guess that the expansion of federal hate crimes laws will pass by a larger margin than ENDA. The uncertainty, with both these measures, is based around what President Bush will do when the bills are sent to him.

President Bush is not running for reelection, and thus should not feel beholden to his social conservative political base. It is very possible that he could sign both of these bills. If he vetoed ENDA, he would be the first president ever to deny workplace protections to a group of employees. On the other hand, the GOP might use these measures as an attempted rallying cry for their base heading into the 2008 campaign.

My own idea is that I can easily see Bush signing the expansion of the hate crimes law, but vetoing ENDA. My guess is that, in the event of a presidential veto, the Democrats would fall 3 or 4 votes short of the number needed to override. The president will be put in a politically sensitive situation. He will be forced to choose between leading his party towards a more moderate stance and appealing to the socially conservative base of the GOP. This also an administration in dire need of a public relations boost, so don’t be surprised if Bush once again demonstrates that he can talk the socially conservative talk, but won’t walk the walk.

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