BREAKING NEWS: ENDA introduced in Senate

Posted on 05 Aug 2009 at 10:31am

Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. Senate today. It marked the first time that a transgender-inclusive version of the bill has been introduced in the Senate. An inclusive version of ENDA was introduced in the House in June. Read the full press release from the Human Rights Campaign after the jump.

Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act Introduced for the First Time in U.S. Senate
Measure would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, hailed today the bipartisan, historic introduction of an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. Senate.  The bill would create federal protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The lead sponsors of the measure are Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA).

“The introduction of an inclusive employment non-discrimination bill in the U.S. Senate is an important and historic step in ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “No American, and that includes LGBT Americans, should have to worry about their livelihood being taken away from them simply for being who they are.   The overwhelming majority of the American people are in favor of this legislation and now is the time for our community to visit their representatives in Congress to let them know we need this passed into law.”

“There is no place in the workplace for employment discrimination,” said U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.  “No worker in America should be fired or denied a job based on who they are.  Discrimination is wrong, period.  I’m proud to join Senator Kennedy, who is a civil rights legend, and Senators Collins and Snowe, both champions for equality, in taking this next step in our ongoing effort to create a more perfect union and guarantee every American, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, the right to earn a living.”

“The promise of America will never be fulfilled as long as justice is denied to even one among us,” said U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  “The Employment Non-Discrimination Act brings us closer to fulfilling that promise for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens.  I’m proud to join Senators Merkley and Collins in introducing this important legislation.”

“Similar to the current law in several states, including Maine, and the policies of many Fortune 500 companies, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would close an important gap in federal civil rights laws by making it illegal to discriminate in employment,” said U.S. Senator  Susan Collins.  “I am pleased to join Senators Merkley, Kennedy and Snowe in introducing this important legislation which affirms the principle that individuals should be judged on their skills and abilities, and not by who they are.”

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  An inclusive ENDA was also introduced in the U.S. House on June 24 of this year.  The legislation reflects the values, shared by the vast majority of Americans, that employment decisions should be based on a person’s qualifications and work ethic.

Today, HRC launched a nationwide email action alert targeted specifically towards garnering support for the ENDA bill introduced today in the Senate.  Members and supporters can go to www.PassENDANow.org to email their U.S. Senator and express their support for this fully-inclusive ENDA legislation.

Also, last week, HRC launched a national, grassroots campaign called “No Excuses” to demand action from Congress on key issues of equality, including ENDA.  Designed to take advantage of the congressional summer recess, when members are in their local offices and meeting with constituents, “No Excuses” will mobilize HRC’s 750,000 members and their allies to meet directly with lawmakers and push for federal legislative change.  Members and supporters can get involved by visiting: http://noexcuses.hrc.org.

According to the recent State of the Workplace report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, 85% of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their equal employment policies, and more than one-third also include gender identity.  More than 60 companies have joined the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, a group of leading U.S. employers that support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  To view a list of the companies and learn more about joining the coalition, visit:  http://www.hrc.org/issues/business_coalition_workplace_fairness.htm.

“Nike has been a long time supporter of the passage of ENDA and is very encouraged that under the leadership of Senators Kennedy, Merkley, Collins and Snowe we are moving a step closer towards passage of this essential piece of legislation,” said Orson Porter, U.S. Director of Government and Public Affairs, Nike Inc.  “Diversity and inclusion at Nike is about respecting our differences, leveraging our strengths and maximizing opportunity for all.  These values make Nike a better company, ardently supportive of our employees, respectful of our consumers and more competitive in our industry. In supporting ENDA, you support the conviction that every American deserves a chance to complete and prosper on a level playing field.”

“We applaud Senator Merkley, Kennedy, Collins and Snowe for their leadership in creating an all-inclusive bill that will create more workplaces like Nationwide’s,” said Steve Keyes, Vice President of Associate Relations & HR Policy.  “This legislation would simply and fairly extend the fundamental right to be judged on one’s own merits, without placing excessive burdens on employers. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act merely embodies the principle of non-discrimination that already enjoys the wide support of the American people.”

ENDA is supported by a broad range of civil rights, religious, civic and professional organizations, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, NAACP, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, AFSCME, National Education Association, National Employment Lawyers Association, Anti-Defamation League, Religious Action Center, Unitiarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, American Civil Liberties Union, and many others.

Currently, federal law provides legal protection against employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.  In 29 states across America, it is still legal to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation, and in 38 states, it is still legal to fire someone for being transgender.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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