Employment Non-Discrimination Act advances to full Senate

WiG

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on July 10 approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act by a bipartisan vote of 15-7.

The measure would ban workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

ACLU legislative representative Ian Thompson said, “Today’s strong, bipartisan vote in favor of expanding workplace non-discrimination protections to include those who are LGBT is yet another sign that the tide has turned. Advocates have been working for nearly 40 years to pass these basic protections to ensure that all American workers, who stand side-by-side in the workplace and contribute with equal measure in their jobs, will stand on the same equal footing under the law. In 2013, it is completely unacceptable to force individuals to hide who they are out of fear of losing their livelihood.”

The bill is now headed to the full Senate for consideration. The latest tally shows at least 53 senators as supporters of the bill.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs the HELP Committee, said after the vote, “Protections against workplace discrimination have made our country a better, fairer and more equal place. It is time to promote workplace fairness by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and I am pleased that the HELP Committee has moved forward to eliminate such discrimination in our society by passing a bipartisan, fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

State law on employment protections is inconsistent, with some states banning bias based on gender identity and sexual orientation, some states banning bias based on sexual orientation – such as Wisconsin, and some states with no protections for LGBT workers.

ENDA would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Federal law already prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.

The HELP Committee vote was the first on ENDA since 2002.

Harkin said, “As we move forward on bringing ENDA to a vote before the full Senate, I urge my colleagues to do what is right—for LGBT Americans and for our economy—and pass this critical civil rights bill.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is a co-sponsor of ENDA. She said, “I am proud to join a bipartisan effort that today advanced our founding belief that all Americans are created equal under the law. Together, we believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at the American Dream and that our LGBT family members, friends, and neighbors deserve to be treated like everyone else in the United States. This legislation is a reflection of our commitment to ending discrimination against our fellow citizens simply because of who they love. Every American deserves the freedom to work free of discrimination. I am hopeful and optimistic that we can now move this legislation forward to build a tomorrow that is more equal, not less, for all Americans.”