Debate Ended on Employment Non-Discrimination Act; Time for a Vote!

On Monday, the U.S. Senate voted 61-30 to end debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (a bill which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity) and bring it up for a vote.  The full Senate is expected to consider the bill today for the first time since its introduction in 1994.  It is hard to believe that it has taken nearly 20 years for Congress to move forward with what seems to this civil rights law firm to be a common sense and basic requirement of equality in the workplace.

Regardless, with all 55 Senate Democrats pledged to vote for the Act and a handful of Republicans offering bipartisan support, ENDA is expected to pass the Senate today.  The Act will then face the far more difficult task of getting through the House of Representatives.  Speaker Boehner’s camp has already signaled the obstacles the bill will face with a statement that the legislation will 1) lead to frivolous litigation (an argument that has been advanced against every employment discrimination statute passed to date) and 2) that it will somehow cost American jobs (an argument which seems to us to be quite a stretch).

ENDA is not perfect – it has a religious exemption which extends far too broadly to even those employees of religious institutions who work in decidedly non-religious positions (for instance a nurse in a religious affiliated hospital).  However, the protections for transgender employees have been put back in after several efforts to negotiate them out and ENDA’s passage would be a huge step toward protecting a wide swath of employees who are currently at the whim their employers’ possible bias and workplace discrimination.

As we have in the past, we ask that those of you who support the passage of this historic and important legislation contact your Representatives and let them know that it is well past time for ENDA to become the law.  With the marriage equality movement in full swing, there is a real focus right now on equal rights and protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  We can only hope that this momentum will finally lead to federal protections for gay, lesbian, and transgender employees in the workplace.