The Employment Non-Discrimination Act Heads to the Senate

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act heads to the Senate—what we can do to pass this long overdue legislation.

Today, Senators Jeff Merkley (OR-D), Susan Collins (ME-R), Olympia Snowe (ME-R), Edward M. Kennedy (MA-D) introduced an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate, and is a companion bill to H.R. 3017. The bill, which enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal employment non-discrimination laws. The introduction of this bill marks an important day for supporters of fairness and equality. Workplace protections for LGBT people are urgently needed and long overdue. We have waited far too long for a meaningful chance to see protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity enacted into federal law.

ENDA would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. It creates express protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people similar to those available under existing federal discrimination laws for other protected classes of workers. The bill enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, and President Obama has made clear that passing an inclusive ENDA is one of the priorities of his civil rights agenda.

NCLR has long supported passage of a fully inclusive piece of legislation to ensure that the entire LGBT community is protected. Through our legal, advocacy and education work, NCLR also highlights the significant problems that LGBT people can face in this area. NCLR assisted in drafting the bill language defining sexual orientation and gender identity, and in January of this year, we hired a full time ENDA organizer to build support of an inclusive bill in key districts.

Because of the importance of passing an ENDA that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity, NCLR serves on the United ENDA steering committee, devoting significant time to ensuring that the LGBT community and our allies have the resources they need to effectively advocate with their senators and representatives on these issues.

Currently, twelve states, the District of Columbia, and more than 100 localities have non-discrimination protections that protect all LGBT workers, covering nearly 40 percent of Americans. Additionally, more than 150 of Fortune 500 companies have enacted non-discrimination policies protecting LGBT workers. These advancements are testament to the heroic efforts of local advocates and visionary corporate leaders. These gains are also evidence of the overwhelming public support for employment protections for LGBT workers. Anti-discrimination measures have helped to protect workers in many places, but millions more remain unprotected.

LGBT people continue to remain invisible on the job and many suffer open harassment and discrimination simply because of who they are. Passing ENDA will go a long way to rectify this inequity and indignity.

According to numerous surveys, 60 percent of likely voters in the United States support an inclusive federal employment non-discrimination law. The time to pass an inclusive ENDA is now.

We urge Congress to take speedy action to put this bill on the President’s desk. LGBT employees work just as hard and contribute just as much as other workers. They should not have to fear losing their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We need to join together and engage with Congress by contacting you Senators until the bill is passed and signed into law. Visit our website for steps you can take TODAY to pass an inclusive ENDA. And keep checking back—we’ll keep you posted every step of the way.

In Solidarity,

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