On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Labor, Education & Pensions Committee took a bipartisan 15-7 vote to send the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to the Senate floor. The historic, bipartisan legislation would provide new employee protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Current federal law bans employment discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability.
Upon the passage, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said: “The President welcomes the bipartisan approval of S. 815, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013, by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today. He thanks Committee Chairman Harkin, Senator Merkley, and Senator Kirk for their leadership on this important issue. The President has long supported an inclusive ENDA, which would enshrine into law strong, lasting and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We look forward to the full Senate’s consideration of ENDA, and continue to urge the House to move forward on this bill that upholds America’s core values of fairness and equality.”
U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee issued the following statement.
Despite the incredible gains we’ve made toward full equality for LGBT Americans, many businesses throughout the United States can still legally discriminate against an employee or an applicant simply because of who they love or how they identify themselves. That is simply wrong, and it has to change.
I’m proud that Washington state is a leader in providing employment protections for LGBT Americans, and today’s vote was an important step toward extending these protections to every LGBT American.
Discrimination of any kind, against anyone, is unacceptable, so I’m incredibly proud to have voted for this historic legislation today. I applaud Senator Harkin for making equality in the workplace a priority for this committee, and I will continue working with my colleagues to pass this important bill through the full Senate.
Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta released the following statement:
LGBT equality keeps advancing because fairness is a fundamental American value. This historic vote marks the first time a congressional committee approved an inclusive bill to protect all LGBT people, including people who are transgender, from discrimination at work. With an inclusive ENDA headed to the Senate floor, we are one step closer to passing a law that will ensure workplace equality for the LGBT community.
From the thousands of calls Lambda Legal gets each year, we know that workplace discrimination is one of the most frequent problems that LGBT people face. Workplace equality has been a top priority for all of Lambda Legal’s 40-year history.
The best legal protection against discrimination is an explicit law that leaves no doubt that employees must be treated fairly regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, but only 22 jurisdictions in the United States expressly ban discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and only 18 cover gender identity and expression explicitly. ENDA will ensure that in most workplaces a person’s job performance, rather than sexual orientation or gender identity, will determine success on the job, a proposition Americans overwhelmingly support in poll after poll. Fairness in employment is a fundamental American principle and it should apply to all Americans. ENDA will fill a glaring gap in our national employment policy by requiring equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers across the country.
With ENDA headed to the full Senate for a vote, we urge Congress to act swiftly to pass this law to ensure workplace equality for the LGBT community. We thank the 15 senators from both parties who voted in favor of it.
Different iterations of ENDA have been introduced in nearly every Congress since 1994, but no version has ever been signed into law. Wednesday’s crucial committee passage marks the legislation’s most significant progress in the Senate in nearly two decades. The bill currently has 53 co-sponsors, including two Republicans.
Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia, including Washington, have enacted statutes that prohibit discrimination based sexual orientation or gender identity. Another five states bar job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity. While these states provide important protections, employers in a majority of states can still fire, refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.