Here’s how fast things are changing on issues affecting sexual orientation and gender identity: there’s actually a realistic chance that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act could pass the divided Congress. And it seems very likely that at the very least, Democrats will push it  aggressively.

That was the word from Harry Reid earlier this week, when he promised that the Senate would take up the legislation “soon,” although he didn’t specify when. And now Barack Obama may be planning to push it himself. It’s no surprise; the current bill has 48 co-sponsors; that’s three more than the version which died in the 111th Congress (2009-2010), even though that Senate had more Democrats. Over in the House,  the companion legislation has 175 cosponsors.

One would expect that the bill would have no chance in the Republican House, but I’m not so sure; it’s not impossible that this could wind up being like the Violence Against Women Act, something so difficult to explain opposing that the House would rather just let it pass than stand in the way. ENDA polls extremely well, with many Americans surprised that employers can fire people based on non-work factors absent of specific laws prohibiting it. I’m never sure how seriously to take that kind of polling, but I can really imagine a lot of Republican Senators being reluctant to filibuster the bill — and it’s even possible to imagine House Republicans wanting to make the bill go away by having John Boehner bring it to the floor for passage (even while they vote against it in order to protect against primary challengers).

No predictions. Just taking note of what really is an amazing change — that ENDA could have reached the status of motherhood and apple pie (and VAWA) to the extent that politicians may actually fear stopping it.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.