Senate HELP Committee Makes History with ENDA Approval

by Charles Joughin

Legislation barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination heads to Senate floor

WASHINGTON – Today members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee reported out the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  The bill was approved 15-7, with all Democratic Senators plus three Republicans - Hatch, Kirk and Murkowski - voting in favor.

“This decisive bipartisan vote sends a clear message that there is nothing  more basic, more fundamental or more American than guaranteeing that hiring decisions are based on a worker’s ability to do the job rather than who they are or who they love,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin. “Today’s vote is a victory for all Americans, and we are deeply grateful to Chairman Harkin and Senators Merkley and Kirk for their leadership, as well as all the Democrats and Republicans on the HELP Committee who stood by this vital legislation and sent it to the Senate floor.”

Leading up to today’s HELP Committee vote, HRC had been in the field working to generate constituent contacts focused on key legislators.  In each state, HRC organizers on the ground were mobilizing members, supporters, and allies with a three-part action alert series, and generated thousands of constituent contacts in support of the bill.  In addition to online ground work, HRC ran a paid patch-through phone program designed to generate a regular flow of calls from HRC members and supporters to their Senators.

“Now, the full Senate has a historic opportunity to tackle this issue once and for all,” continued Griffin.  “Today this committee proved that there is no good reason for any senator—Democrat or Republican—to oppose this commonsense legislation. It’s time to vote. ”

ENDA was introduced in the 113th Congress in the House by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and in the Senate by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) as well as Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Harkin (D-IA). 



This week, we passed 12,000 combined constituent contacts to Senators Murkowski, Burr, and Hatch. Postcards were delivered in state-last week to Senators Murkowski and Hatch. They were delivered yesterday to Senator Burr in conjunction with a press conference in Charlotte featuring HRC President Chad Griffin and local business and political leaders.

Last week, we launched action alerts to the targeted states asking HRC members and supporters to contact their Senator, and this week, we launched the final series of alerts asking people to call or email their respective senators.

We have also worked to educate our ENDA coalition partners about our work on the ground in these states and to provide them with tools they can use to mobilize their own constituencies. 

Alaska (2 Field Staff)

Murkowski Constituent Contacts To Date



Phone Calls


Constituent Contacts






HRC field staff and volunteers gathered hundreds of postcards at the Solstice and 4th of July Festivals.

We delivered postcards to Sen. Murkowski’s Anchorage office on Friday, July 5th.

Blog Posts:
July 6 – Alaskans Urge Sen. Murkowski to Vote YES on ENDA on July 10
June 28 – Alaskans Celebrate the Supreme Court Rulings
June 24 – Celebrating the Midnight Sun in Anchorage
June 21 – Alaskans Celebrate Sen. Murkowski on Marriage, Press for Support on ENDA
June 16 – Alaskan Pride and Determination

North Carolina (3 Field Staff)

Burr Constituent Contacts To Date



Phone Calls


Constituent Contacts






The North Carolina field team is spread out across the state, with one organizer covering Charlotte and Asheville, another in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill triangle, and a third in Greensboro and Winston-Salem.  They have engaged the HRC steering committee and local partners, including Equality North Carolina and the North Carolina NAACP, and have been working with individuals to conduct in-district visits.

Blog Posts:
June 27 – Widespread Support in North Carolina for Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act
June 19 – Overwhelming Support for Prohibiting Employment Discrimination in North Carolina

Utah (3 Field Staff)

Hatch Constituent Contacts To Date



Phone Calls


Constituent Contacts






The Utah team is partnering with Equality Utah, the Salt Lake City Pride Center, and other allies throughout the state.  A push to collect hand-written letters began last week.

Postcards were delivered to Sen. Hatch’s Salt Lake City office on Wednesday, July 3rd.

Blog Posts:
June 30 – Still More Work to do in Utah for ENDA
June 24 – Summer Means Sun and Farmers’ Markets; Perfect Place to Organize for ENDA
June 4 – Utah Pride-Goers Support ENDA

What’s Next

After the HELP Committee markup, we will shift our field organizing to the broader group of states represented by our priority senators.  We have budgeted to hire up to fifteen temporary organizers for the months of August through November.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, 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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