Given that yet another state is on the verge of enacting marriage equality for same-sex couples (Rhode Island) you would think that something as basic as the right for people to work without fear of being fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, would be the law of the land. Right?
Today, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. lawmakers introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which prohibits worker dismissal solely on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, for consideration — again.
Since as far back as 1974 some politicians in U.S. Congress have tried to outlaw employment discrimination for gay, lesbian and bisexual workers, when Bella Abzug introduced the Equality Act that year.
ENDA was first introduced in 1994. Almost every Congress since then has had the bill presented to it for consideration. No Congress has passed it, yet.
This year may be different. According to the The Huffington Post:
... given the public discussion on gay rights over the past year, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a co-sponsor, told HuffPost he thinks the bill has about as good a shot as ever in the Senate.
"There's a growing recognition that discrimination is wrong" against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Merkley said Thursday. "The same concept that's driving the marriage debate will help drive success on employment discrimination."
Gay marriage now has support from all but three Democratic senators -- Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) -- as well as Republican Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Rob Portman (Ohio). ...
For the ENDA bill, Merkley's co-sponsors include Democratic Sens. Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), as well as Kirk and fellow Republican Susan Collins (Maine). A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released a statement pushing for passage of the act, noting that, "it is perfectly legal to fire lesbian, gay and bisexual people under the laws of 29 states and transgender people are not protected by the laws of 34 states." More from the HRC release:
“It is shameful and embarrassing that past Congresses have failed to pass federal employment protections for LGBT Americans even though fair-minded leaders have advocated for its passage for years,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “As we experience the bipartisan sea change on LGBT equality, we call on Congress to seize this historic opportunity and ensure that workers are not unfairly treated based on who they are or who they love.” ...
“Lawmakers can stand with the vast majority of Americans who support this common sense legislation or they can stand against the tide of history that is moving inexorably toward equality,” added Griffin. “Our country’s most successful corporations know that discrimination has no place in the workplace and Congress must follow their lead as well as the wishes of their constituents.”
A November 2011 poll by the HRC showed that 77 percent of voters support protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment. This includes 70 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of seniors. Voters are also unaware that current federal law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with 87 percent believing that kind of discrimination to be illegal and only 5 percent correctly knowing that it remains legal.
Among Fortune 500 companies, 88 percent have sexual orientation non-discrimination policies and 57 percent have gender identity non-discrimination policies. Additionally, more than 90 companies have joined the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, a group of leading U.S. employers that support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
President Obama supports the legislation, according the White House website.
Below is the bill as it has been introduced into the U.S. Senate:
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