Post submitted by Paul Guequierre, HRC Deputy Communications Director
Moments ago the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. The bill 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. Currently there is no federal law against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination and it is perfectly legal to fire lesbian, gay and bisexual people under the laws of 29 states and transgender people are not protected by the laws of 34 states.
“Discrimination is just plain wrong. It is shocking that there is still anywhere in America where it is legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Sen. Merkley, the lead sponsor of the bill said. “Americans understand that it’s time to make sure our LGBT friends and family are treated fairly and have the same opportunities as all Americans. Now it’s time for our laws to catch up. People should be judged at work on their ability to do the job, period.”
HRC has been advocating for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act since it was first introduced in 1994 and its passage is a top organizational priority. The last time a Senate committee considered ENDA was 2002 when Sen. Kennedy was the HELP Committee Chairman, and this is the first time a gender identity inclusive bill is set to see action. Current committee Chairman Tom Harkin has pledged a committee mark-up and Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he wants to bring the bill to the floor and HRC urges them to take these critical steps.
Americans support ENDA. A November 2011 poll by HRC showed that 77 percent of voters support protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment. This includes 70 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of seniors. Voters are also unaware that current federal law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with 87 percent believing that kind of discrimination to be illegal and only 5 percent correctly knowing that it remains legal.
Among Fortune 500 companies, 88 percent have sexual orientation non-discrimination policies and 57 percent have gender identity non-discrimination policies. Additionally, more than 90 companies have joined the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, a group of leading U.S. employers that support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.