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Mormons, ENDA and Perdition

November 8, 2013

The U.S. Senate voted yesterday for ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or on the basis of gender identity. Somewhat surprisingly, the bill got support from 10 Republican senators.

Since pretty much all Senate business these days has to get past a filibuster, 60 votes were needed – and 64 votes were gotten, both for cloture and for passage.

The New York Times noted another somewhat surprising factoid: five of seven Mormon senators voted for the bill, including three Republicans.

The Times did not pause over the fact that there are seven Mormon senators. Mormons – more formally, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – make up a little less than 2 percent of the American population, but 7 percent of the United States Senate. By contrast, for example, African-Americans make up more than 12 percent of the population and just recently doubled their senatorial contingent to 2 percent. Latinos are more than 16 percent of Americans and just 3 percent of senators. Women are a little more than half of the population and just 17 percent of the Senate.

So Mormons are probably one of the more over-represented demographics in the Senate. Two of the seven Mormon senators are Democrats – Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Tom Udall of New Mexico. Five are Republicans – Mike Crapo of Idaho, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Both of the Mormon Democrats and three of the Mormon Republicans supported ENDA. Only Senators Crapo and Lee were opposed. This is new, interesting, and a good thing. It appears to reflect in part a high-level effort  within the Mormon church to ameliorate the church’s harshly anti-gay image in the light of its high-profile campaign to ban same-sex marriages in California.

No one should misapprehend that the Mormon church has become pro-gay – church doctrine still holds that acting on same-sex attraction is sinful. But the church now allows that gay people might hold jobs during their earthbound reprieves from perdition.


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