For the first time in history, an Employment Non-Discrimination Act prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been introduced into the United States Senate.
Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced the bill. They were joined by 34 other senators.
In a statement, Senator Merkley said:
There is no place in the workplace for employment discrimination. 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.
Senator Kennedy, long a champion of an inclusive ENDA, said:
The promise of America will never be fulfilled as long as justice is denied to even one among us. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act brings us closer to fulfilling that promise for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens.
Most gay organizations fighting for inclusive ENDA legislation applauded the move. In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign said:
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.
Rea Carey, the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force Action Fund, said:
ENDA reflects the core U.S. values of fairness and ensuring everyone is allowed to participate on a level playing field in the workplace. People recognize that our nation as a whole benefits when everyone is allowed to contribute their talents and skills, free from discrimination, which is all ENDA seeks to do.
For decades, a majority has supported protecting their friends, family and neighbors from such discrimination. They know it's wrong to deprive lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of the ability to earn a livelihood and provide for their families simply because of who they are. We are on the cusp of seeing those dark days come to an end, and today's introduction marks an important step in that direction.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 would prohibit employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and joint labor-management committees from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Such protections are already in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.
According to HRC, it is legal to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in 29 states, and in 38 states it is legal to fire someone for being transgender.
With Democrats holding a tenuous filibuster-proof majority in the Senate it is possible that the bill could be enacted, but that is not guaranteed.
Dr. Jillian T. Weiss, in a Bilerico post last month, said that the magic number in the Senate for a bill of this type is 60, and it's pretty likely that someone will move to filibuster the legislation.
In Dr. Weiss' Bilerico post, you will find the names of senators that have not taken a position on the bill, as well as 17 "targeted" senators based on party and voting patterns. Look them up, and if you live in one of those states schedule a meeting with the senators or their staff, make a call to their offices and email them.
The LGBTQ community has never been this close to getting an inclusive ENDA passed in the U.S. Senate. Now is the time for hand-to-hand combat, and some serious grassroots action.