Anne Stott

ENDA Sent to Senate for Debate

Committee advances nondiscrimination legislation for first time since 2002

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP Committee) voted 15-7 to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 185), a bill which would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill now heads to the full Senate for debate.

The legislation received bipartisan support in the Committee. All 12 Democrats were joined by Republican Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Orrin Hatch (Utah). Today’s vote is the first vote on ENDA by the Senate HELP Committee since 2002, according to a statement released by the Committee.

“Protections against workplace discrimination have made our country a better, fairer, and more equal place. It is time to promote workplace fairness by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and I am pleased that the HELP Committee has moved forward to eliminate such discrimination in our society by passing a bipartisan, fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Committee. “This bill renews our historical commitment to the advancement of civil rights, and to the American ideal of a meritocracy in which people are judged on their talent, ability, and qualifications—not by the color of their skin, their religion, their gender, their national origin, their age, whether they have a disability, their sexual orientation, or their gender identity.

Fifty-three Senators have signed on as co-sponsors, giving the legislation a very good chance as approval.

The House, dominated by obstructionist Republicans, is another story. Openly gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) re-introduced the House version of ENDA, H.R. 1755, this past April. Perhaps the recent wave of judicial victories for LGBT rights and poll after poll indicating that a majority of Americans think LGBT works should be treated equally will sway the judgment of Boehner et al.

As of April 2013, 434 (88 percent) of Fortune 500 companies had implemented non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, and 282 (57 percent) had policies that include gender identity.

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