The President of the United States, Barack Obama, wrote upon the Senate passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013: “For more than two centuries, the story of our nation has been the story of more citizens realizing the rights and freedoms that are our birthright as Americans. Today, a bipartisan majority in the Senate took another important step in this journey by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would help end the injustice of our fellow Americans being denied a job or fired just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Just as no one in the United States can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, no one should ever lose their job simply because of who they are or who they love.”
He continued, “Today’s victory is a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago. In particular, I thank Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, Senators Merkley and Collins for their leadership, and Senator Kirk for speaking so eloquently in support of this legislation. Now it’s up to the House of Representatives. This bill has the overwhelming support of the American people, including a majority of Republican voters, as well as many corporations, small businesses and faith communities. They recognize that our country will be more just and more prosperous when we harness the God-given talents of every individual.”
Concluding, “One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do. Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it. I urge the House Republican leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and send it to my desk so I can sign it into law. On that day, our nation will take another historic step toward fulfilling the founding ideals that define us as Americans.”
Seven Senate Republicans joined 54 Democrats to vote in favor of moving the legislation along, avoiding a filibuster. Final passage of the law is expected by the end of the week. The last time ENDA came up for vote was in 1996 and it failed by one vote. It was the same year that President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA was struck down in March 2013.
Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) said, “I am very happy to see the Senate pass ENDA. Currently, it remains legal in 29 states to fire or refuse to hire based on sexual orientation, and 38 states based on gender identity. This is wrong. This legislation does not create special rights, as some claim. ENDA simply adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the current list of federal employment protections that already ban discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.”
Smith added, “The American public, several organizations, and many Members of Congress have widely embraced and endorsed ENDA’s goal of nondiscrimination. It is now House leadership’s turn to allow a vote on an all-inclusive ENDA that provides equality for all LGBT people. As a cosponsor of ENDA, I’ll continue to work with my colleagues and my constituents in Washington State to push for LGBT equality in the workplace.”
“For 19 years, we have been working toward this historic moment, and with today’s vote in the Senate, we’re one step closer to making ENDA the law of the land. This crucial bill would ensure that all Americans have the same opportunities to work hard and succeed, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray. “In many states, including my home state of Washington, we already have strong laws to protect the rights of our LGBT friends, neighbors, and family members, but we can’t stop working until Americans in all 50 states are free from discrimination in the workplace. State lines shouldn’t determine whether someone can be fired from their job simply because of who they are, so it’s now up to Speaker Boehner and House Republicans to do the right thing and bring this landmark civil rights legislation up for a vote.”
“Rights are sometimes intangible but, boy if you’ve ever been discriminated against, seeking employment or seeking an advancement, it’s bitter,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the only openly gay member of the Senate, said after the vote. “And it’s been a long, long fight, but I think its day has come. And that’s just very exciting to witness.”