US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Harkin and Bipartisan Group of Senators: It’s Time to Pass ENDA

Landmark Gay Rights Bill Will End LGBT Employment Discrimination

Monday, November 04, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, after the successful cloture vote to start debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), called on the Senate to pass the bill and end LGBT employment discrimination. Harkin is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which passed the bill on a bipartisan vote in July.

“Despite the passage of laws at the state and local levels, discrimination in the workplace continues to be all too real.  Forty-two percent of lesbian gay and bisexual workers report having experienced some form of discrimination at work.  Even with the progress that has been made at the state and local levels, too many hardworking Americans, whether employed by private companies or by public entities, are being judged not by their ability and qualifications, but by their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Chairman Harkin said. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans deserve the same civil rights protections from discrimination as all other Americans.  This bill will accomplish that.  It will say to millions of LGBT Americans that they are full and welcome members of our American family, and that they deserve the same civil rights protections as all other Americans.”

“Everyone, gay or straight, should have the right to work hard and earn a living,” Merkley said. “Unfortunately, in 29 states you can still be fired for who you are and who you love. That is just plain wrong. This week, the Senate has an opportunity to right this wrong and stand for fairness and equality for all Americans. I urge my colleagues to put in place these commonsense protections our LGBT friends and families.”

“The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is about civil rights. In Illinois, we aspire to continue Abraham Lincoln’s legacy of fighting for liberty and human dignity,” Kirk said. "I measure myself against Senator Everett Dirksen, the Illinois fiscal conservative and social moderate whose passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 stood out as one of his best moments as a Republican leader. The fact that a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have taken steps to stop discrimination in the workplace highlights that our action is overdue. I will maintain the tradition of Lincoln and Dirksen by supporting ENDA to block discrimination in the workplace and maintain our competitive edge in the global economy.”

“All Americans deserve a fair opportunity to pursue the American dream. Over the years, we have rightly taken a stand against workplace discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, religion, age, and disability.  It is past time we ensure that all employees are judged on their talents, abilities, their hard work, and capabilities by closing an important gap in federal law as it relates to sexual orientation,” said Senator Collins.  “I am pleased to be a long-time supporter and original cosponsor of ENDA.  This bill deserves support as a matter of fairness and as a matter of civil rights.  It is a commonsense solution, consistent with existing federal civil rights laws, and it will not place an undue burden on American employers.  Moreover, it is simply the right thing to do.”

"Every American deserves the freedom to work free of discrimination,” said Baldwin.  “Passing ENDA is about opportunity – about whether every American gets to dream the same dreams, chase the same ambitions, and have the same shot at success. I am proud to be a part of this bipartisan effort to build a tomorrow where America is more equal, not less."

The bill would prohibit employers 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. More than 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies already extend workplace protections based on sexual orientation and more than one-third on the basis of gender identity.

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