Regarding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), President Barack Obama said in an op-ed piece for The Huffington Post Sunday:
“Here in the United States, we’re united by a fundamental principle: we’re all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We believe that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the chance to follow your dreams and pursue your happiness. That’s America’s promise.
“That’s why, for instance, Americans can’t be fired from their jobs just because of the color of their skin or for being Christian or Jewish or a woman or an individual with a disability. That kind of discrimination has no place in our nation. And yet, right now, in 2013, in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
“As a result, millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs — not because of anything they’ve done, but simply because of who they are.
“It’s offensive. It’s wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.
“That’s why Congress needs to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill has strong bipartisan support and the support of a vast majority of Americans. It ought to be the law of the land.”
Seven Senate Republicans joined 54 Democrats to vote in favor of moving the legislation along, avoiding a filibuster. The final vote was 61-30. Final passage of the law is expected by Friday, November 8. 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.
The Associated Press reported:
The three potential Republican presidential candidates — Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky — voted against, a reflection that among core GOP conservative voters opposition to gay rights remains strong. No senator spoke in opposition to the measure during Monday’s debate.
Tony Perkins of the conservative Family Research Council said in a statement that he was disappointed in the Senate vote, but “confident that the U.S. House of Representatives will ultimately reject ENDA because it not only threatens the free market but religious liberties as well.”
Current federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin. But it doesn’t stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire workers because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
The bill would bar employers with 15 or more workers from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions, including hiring, firing, compensation or promotion.
The bill would exempt religious institutions and the military.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday: “The President welcomes the Senate’s bipartisan first step towards final passage of S. 815, the Employment Non‑Discrimination Act of 2013. He has long supported an inclusive ENDA, which would establish lasting and comprehensive Federal protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He thanks the lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who have stood up for America’s core values of fairness and equality, and looks forward to the Senate’s consideration of ENDA. He also encourages lawmakers to ensure that the legislation remains true to its goals as it is considered.”
A statement was also released Monday by Sen. Merkley, D-OR, and 55 cosponsors. It read: “The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of S. 815 because the bill would establish lasting and comprehensive Federal protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This bipartisan legislation is necessary to ensure that strong Federal protections exist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers no matter where they live. Workers should not fear being fired from their jobs, harassed at their workplaces, or otherwise denied the chance to earn a living for themselves and their families, simply because of sexual orientation or gender identity. This legislation would, for the first time in this Nation’s history, make explicit in Federal law such guarantees, which are consistent with America’s core values of fairness and equality. Passage of this bill is long overdue. The Administration commends the Senate’s bipartisan efforts and urges swift passage of the legislation.”
The AFL-CIO and Pride @ Work released the following statement: “Throughout our history, the AFL-CIO and its affiliates have been leading advocates against discrimination in the workplace in any shape or form. We were instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We fought for the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act—which all prohibit on-the-job discrimination.
“The AFL-CIO and Pride @ Work believe it is wrong for any employer to discriminate against or fire a worker based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination in the workplace has no place in the United States.”
“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.”