Kelly Ayotte in middle of next battle in GOP civil war

The next battle in the civil war between the state’s Republican establishment and conservative activists is taking place in the U.S. Senate over what has been called the most important civil rights bill of the decade.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, is headed for a Senate vote, perhaps as early as next week.

With support from 52 Democrats and four Republicans, proponents are within four votes of assembling a filibuster-proof majority. Roll Call’s David Hawkings writes Sen. Kelly Ayotte is one of six undecided Republican senators being targeted in a major push by advocates:

That the focus is on Republicans is a sign that LGBT advocates sense an opening to capitalize on efforts by the party establishment to grow their base in order to prevent a takeover by tea partyers and culture warriors, which could debilitate the GOP’s national prospects for years.

The New Hampshire College Republicans urged Ayotte to support the legislation. “College Republicans have long looked to Senator Ayotte as someone who could represent the future of the Republican Party,” wrote NHCR Chairman Jake Wagner. “It is imperative that she and others in the GOP care about the views and interests of the younger generation; especially at a time when their brothers, sisters, friends, and classmates will be personally impacted by the passage of ENDA.”

Representing the party establishment, New Hampshire’s Republican National Committee members expressed strong support. In a Concord Monitor op-ed, Stephen Duprey wrote, “As a businessman, a Republican, and a citizen of this great republic, I believe everyone has the right to work hard and be judged by the work they do. This is a bedrock American and New Hampshire principle and one that has fueled our economy for generations.” Juliana Bergeron added, “I see absolutely no reason why we should leave hardworking people vulnerable simply because they’re gay,”

Cornerstone’s Ashley Pratte spoke for social conservatives who oppose the legislation. “If our country accepts ENDA as federal law not only would it be unenforceable, it will spur litigation that in turn could be used to intimidate people of faith in companies that can’t afford lawsuits,” she wrote in an email to John DiStaso. “This legislation would create thousands more lawsuits and as a result would have a negative impact on small businesses across the country if passed.”