Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who in 2012 became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate, says she spent a full day in meetings and conversation with GOP Senator Rob. Portman, who announced the following day that he now supports marriage equality. But Portman never let on to Baldwin that he was about to make a big, pro-gay announcement. And Baldwin now plans to reach out to Portman, who’d said his decision came about after his son came out to him as gay two years ago.
“He and I sit on the Budget Committee together and we were on a day-long mark-up last Thursday, and we talked many times -- on the issue of manufacturing,” she explained with a laugh in a wide-ranging interview on my SiriusXM OutQ radio program. “Then I wake up the next morning and read the public announcement -- it didn’t come up in our conversation. So I’m really looking forward to speaking with him, letting him know that I am very glad that he spoke out publicly. You know, some people have changes of heart privately and don’t necessarily make them public. I’m glad that he did, and I want him to know that.” (Scroll down to listen to the full interview)
Regarding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (or ENDA), which has little chance of getting a vote in the Republican-controlled House, Baldwin said she is pushing for a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“I feel quite hopeful about ENDA making progress in the Senate,” she said. “Right now the author of the legislation is engaged in negotiations to put finishing touches on the version of the bill that will be introduced, perhaps right after the break for Easter and Passover. Senator Harkin, who chairs the committee to which ENDA will be referred, announced that he intended not only to hold hearings but to have a committee vote.That’s a great first sign and signals a readiness to move it further. And I think a floor vote is certainly a very bright prospect for this session. I think right now we’re working on readying the bill, getting it in final form. But very early on in the process, when the bill is introduced, I hope to have that conversation [with Majority Leader Harry Reid on scheduling a vote].”
Baldwin also again called on President Obama to sign an executive order that would ban federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, noting that “it is the logical next step,” and also spoke out on the significance of her election in 2012, the Affordable Care Act and gun safely legislation.
Listen to the full interview with Baldwin below: