We reported last week that Senator Susan Collins might, just might, have a soft spot in her heart for gays and lesbians, and it appears we were more right than even her staff wants to admit. Sure, we took her to task for her self-imposed gag order on the issue of gays in the military, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the policy’s potential repeal (the Military Readiness Enhancement Act) by pointing out that she has a non-discrimination policy in her own office and represents a state that strongly supports parity for the GLBT community.
Her staff repeatedly dodged our needling for comment on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” over a period of three weeks of calls, finally releasing a bland two-sentence statement (see "Ducking the Gay Issue," by Tony Giampetruzzi, May 11).
What they also didn't tell is that Collins is expected to be the lead Republican sponsor in the Senate of a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was introduced in April by a bi-partisan House delegation led by openly gay Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank.
That’s right. You can imagine our confusion when we received a phone call from someone representing the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Maine the day the story about Collins hit last week. The caller explained that our own moderate Republican was going to bat to end discrimination for gays in the workplace, and encouraged us to please contact Senator Olympia Snowe to get her on the ENDA bandwagon as well.
We explained that Snowe might not be eager to hear from us just yet, since she, too, was an object of our ire.
“We’ve been working with HRC and we’ve been told that Collins has agreed to be the lead Republican sponsor,” said Betsy Smith, the executive director of Equality Maine.
Smith agreed that it seemed a little odd that Collins’s office wouldn’t mention that the senator was about to lead the charge against discrimination in the workplace when it was obvious we were about to take her to task for not speaking up against . . . discrimination in the workplace. After all, our military is doing double time these days, and, if you asked any of them, they’d likely consider that work.
Collins’s communications director, Jen Burita, confirmed that Collins has agreed to sponsor the legislation, but said since the legislation hasn’t been submitted in the Senate, out of deference for the lead Democratic sponsor, Ted Kennedy, there has been no mention of it to the press. Now, about that gray area between workplace and war zone...