Gay rights bill would be giant step

November 5, 2013 

In yet another sign that America is not as frightened as once it was of extending more rights to the gay community, the U.S. Senate is moving ahead on specifically prohibiting workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender people. There were 61 senators, including some Republicans, who voted in favor of proceeding on a bill.

Although such a move may meet opposition from right-wing tea partyers in the House, that it would advance in the Senate is a promising sign of the times. To some degree, it reflects individual enlightenment and the realization on the part of many senators that expanding gay rights is no threat to other people or to the republic. And then there is Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a conservative Republican who announced recently that he backed same-sex marriage. His son is gay.

Kay Hagan, incumbent North Carolina Democrat up for re-election, was among the unanimous Democrats. Sen. Richard Burr was not among the Republicans who supported the expansion of rights. North Carolina’s House Speaker Thom Tillis, seeking the GOP nomination to oppose Hagan, backed an unfortunate amendment banning gay marriage when it came before the legislature.

As he was backing it, he said to one group of college students that he thought the amendment would vanish in a generation or so. It turns out his prediction might have been a little conservative, so to speak.

When the issue comes down to personal experience and understanding, views change. Young Americans, having grown up in a time when gays have been more open about their choices, seem to feel little threat from extending rights.

These protections are overdue and should not be detoured by the House. Members of these groups are hard-working, responsible citizens, and they have earned the respect of their fellow citizens. Their government should show them the same.

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