Alaska's Republican congressman, Don Young, suggested in a debate Thursday night that he may be open to voting for workplace protections for gays and lesbians.
The debate, hosted by Alaska Public Media, asked candidates for Alaska's only seat in the House whether they would support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. House Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to pass it this year.
Young, 81, first avoided answering. "I've hired a person of a different orientation," he said, before pivoting to talk about about gay marriage. "That's personal. ... I do believe in the Bible. Always have and always will. But hiring is different."
The moderator prodded further on whether he would support ENDA. "Probably," said Young.
It's not a decisive statement by any means, but it is somewhat of a softening for Young, who voted against ENDA when it passed the House in 2007. Young is seeking a 22nd term, challenged by Democrat Forrest Dunbar.
The Senate approved ENDA in November 2013, with 10 Republicans voting for the bill. Republican leadership in the House opposes the bill, however, making it unlikely that it would come up for a vote there in the near future.
Young was criticized recently for homophobic remarks he made to an Alaska high school assembly.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order in July banning workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in the federal government and federal contractors. But gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees in the private sector still have no protection against workplace discrimination in 29 states.