Paul Ryan Signals Conditional Support for ENDA

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Paul D. Ryan may be open to voting for legislation that would protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination in the workplace, CQ Roll Call has learned.

Conditional support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act from the influential Wisconsin Republican, who is also the Budget chairman and was the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, would be significant as the legislation moves through the Senate this week, then faces an uncertain future in the House.

"Congressman Ryan does not believe someone should be fired because of their sexual orientation," said a Ryan spokesman in an email to CQ Roll Call. "That said, any legislation to address this concern should be narrowly crafted to guard against unintended consequence."

The spokesman did not elaborate on what the "unintended consequence" might be. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, signaled Monday through his own spokesman that he opposes ENDA because it could be a job killer.

"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.

Ryan may be reticent to support the legislation currently pending in the Senate that would bar workplace discrimination based on gender identity. He was one of 35 House Republicans who voted for a more narrow version of ENDA that passed through the Democrat-controlled chamber in 2007, which didn't build in protections for the transgendered community.

In 2010, when the House was poised to take up the legislation again, the new language made him pause.

"It makes it something you can't vote for," Ryan said at the time. "I think ENDA's the right thing to do," but the transgender provision "changes the equation."

Of the 35 lawmakers who voted for the 2007 bill, 12 remain in the House and, in addition to Ryan, two are now members of leadership: National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon and House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice C. Miller of Michigan.

Only two of those 12 members have signed onto the House's ENDA bill: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Moderate GOP members newer to the House — Jon Runyan of New Jersey and Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna of New York — round out the list of the only Republican co-sponsors.