Gabriel Arana is a senior editor at The American Prospect. His articles on gay rights, immigration, and media have appeared in publications including The New Republic, The Nation, Salon, The Advocate, and The Daily Beast.
Any other day, Reverend Frank Schaeffer might look out onto the 179 acres of woods at Camp Innabah—a Christian retreat center 40 miles outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—and stop to ponder God's design in the natural beauty. But today, his mind is on other matters. Mainly, his trial. "There probably won't be an acquittal," says Schaeffer, who faces losing his credentials to preach in the United Methodist Church, the country's largest mainline protestant denomination. "I just hope the penalty will be restorative rather than punitive."
In a historic vote yesterday, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. First introduced in 1994, when the legislation failed to pass the chamber by a single vote, ENDA succeeded in securing enough support from Republicans to pass after adopting an amendment by Rob Portman. The Ohio senator’s amendment strengthens the bill’s existing protections for religious and religiously affiliated organizations, specifying that government entities cannot retaliate against groups exempted from the law.
Latinos, the conventional wisdom on the right goes, are ripe for conservatives' electoral picking. A majority are Catholic, family-oriented, and hardworking. If only Republicans could change their thinking on immigration—turning away from the Mitt Romney "self-deportation" approach—this constituency would naturally flock to the party of Reagan. But a recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) confirms what data geeks have been saying for years: The Latinos-are-conservatives-at-heart idea is little more than Republican myth-making. Not only does this constituency strongly identify with Democrats on the key social issues that matter to movement conservatives—abortion and same-sex marriage—they are more liberal than most Americans. And hardworking or not, Latinos are concerned with rising inequality and favor public investment in the economy. All this is bad news for those who think the GOP is a rebrand away from cashing in on a Latino giveaway. “Republicans clearly have a serious brand and issue platform problem among Hispanics,” says PRRI CEO Robert Jones.
Earlier this week, top advocates of immigration reform met at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the National Democrat Network (NDN), a center-left think tank, to discuss the prospects of getting a bill through Congress by year's end. "The fundamentals are stronger than at any time during the last ten years," Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA, told the audience. "[Immigration reform] is a plane on the runway ready to take off." Skeptics might counter that the jet has been sitting on the tarmac for months. In early June, House Speaker John Boehner said immigration reform was set to see the president’s desk by the end of the summer. The White House said the same thing. The Senate passed an omnibus bill in July, but August recess came and went without legislation getting through the House. Now, with the looming budget battle soaking up the Beltway’s oxygen, it seems House Republicans intend to slow-walk the bill to death.
House Republicans' latest excuse for not passing immigration reform—that the congressional calendar is too stuffed with shutdowns and Syria dilemmas—is pretty silly. First, the debt ceiling hasn’t dropped into the fall session unceremoniously from the sky—this is an annual responsibility they knew would return since the last hellish time they raised our borrowing limit. Second, there’s absolutely nothing stopping the House from passing immigration reform ASAP. In a single day, Republican legislators could bring the Senate immigration bill for a floor vote in the House, where conventional wisdom says it has the votes to pass. "This is no longer a debate about policy. We've had ten years of debate," says Muzaffar Chishti, director of the New York office of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. "Every element of the policy discussion has been held and held repeatedly."