UPDATED: U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Mark Kirk today (April 25) reintroduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the House, the bill was reintroduced by U.S. Reps. Jared Polis and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The chief sponsorship is bipartisan – Merkley is a Democrat from Oregon, Kirk is a Republican from Illinois; Polis is a Democrat from Colorado and Ros-Lehtinen is a Republican from Florida. Polis also is openly gay.
ENDA, in some form or another, has been offered in Congress for nearly four decades.
The probabilities of ENDA passing in the U.S. Senate are higher than in the House, where Republicans hold the majority. However, LGBT civil rights activists cite passage of the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year as an example of what can happen when lawmakers get together on an issue.
And, outside of the Capitol, there’s little controversy over ENDA, which has widespread support from U.S. business and labor.
Voters, according to some polls, support ENDA at a rate of more than 70 percent. And 90 percent of Americans polled wrongly believed federal law already bans discrimination against LGBT workers and job applicants.
“Almost 40 years after my mother boldly and courageously introduced the Equality Act – the first bill ever introduced in the U.S. Congress to prevent discrimination against LGBT Americans and to secure full equality under federal law – the time has now come for the Congress to approve ENDA," stated Liz Abzug, daughter of Congresswoman Bella Abzug, D-N.Y. "It is time for LGBT Americans to be treated equally under the law, with legal protections against all forms of discrimination and with the legal standing to pursue remedies through the judicial system when those protections are violated."
Heather Cronk of the activist group GetEQUAL said, "The legal protections offered under the Employment Non-Discrimination Act are desperately needed by LGBT Americans from east to west and from north to south.
“Every day, I hear stories from folks working two and three jobs just to get by, constantly fearful that their employers might find out that they're gay or transgender. That kind of stress diminishes productivity and workplace stability, but it also strikes at the heart of our own human dignity. This is a problem that needs solving, and now is the time to solve it.”