by Charles Joughin

Focus turns to House of Representatives after unprecedented and bipartisan coalition stands up for long overdue workplace fairness

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate voted 64 to 32 to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for the first time in the legislation’s two-decade history. All Senate Democrats joined 10 Senate Republicans to approve the bill.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:

“Today, a strong bipartisan majority of the United States Senate made history by standing up for a fundamental American truth. Each and every American worker should be judged based on the work they do, and never based on who they are. This broad Senate coalition has sent a vital message that civil rights legislation should never be tied up by partisan political games.

“We firmly believe that if the House of Representatives were freed by Speaker John Boehner to vote its conscience, this bill could pass immediately. It’s unconscionable that any one person would stand in the way of this crucial piece of the civil rights puzzle.”

Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, prematurely suggested that he will not bring ENDA to the floor for an up-or-down vote. However, that statement is already drawing public criticism from some in the speaker’s own party.

In an interview with Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, GOP Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said, “I believe the Speaker should allow a vote on this bill. […] I believe that the American public wants to make sure people are not discriminated against.”

“With today’s vote in the Senate, Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, lead sponsors Senators Merkley and Kirk, and Senators Collins and Baldwin have shown us all what leadership looks like. Now, Speaker Boehner should take up the mantle of leadership and allow the House to join them.”

Separately, President Obama is also empowered to sign a long-pending executive order that would protect the employees of federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This order is not a silver bullet, and ENDA is vitally necessary after the order is signed. But the Human Rights Campaign has long argued that, by signing the order, President Obama can extend workplace protections to over 16 million American workers.

“We urge the House of Representatives to pass ENDA immediately, and we call on President Obama to send a clear message in support of workplace fairness by signing this executive order,” Griffin said.

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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