U.S. Senate Holds First Hearing on Fully-Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act

by HRC Staff

Measure would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, praised the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today for holding the Senate's first-ever hearing on a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. The lead sponsors of the measure are Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

"We applaud the leadership of Senators Merkley and Collins in support of fairness and equality for all LGBT people and thank Chairman Harkin for holding this important hearing," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, who also provided written testimony for the hearing. "For the first time in history, the Senate is moving forward with legislation to protect Americans from arbitrary discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Like our neighbors and coworkers, LGBT people simply want a fair chance to succeed and support our families."

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act 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 at companies with 15 or more employees. The legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate on August 5 of this year a House version was introduced on June 24 and the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the measure on September 23.

Witnesses from the hearing testifying in support included Hon. Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice Helen Norton, Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law Hon. Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, State of Illinois Virginia Nguyen, Diversity & Inclusion Team Member, Nike, Inc., and Mike Carney, a police officer for the City of Springfield, Massachusetts who successfully sued for sexual orientation-based discrimination under Massachusetts law. Testimony from the witnesses in support of the measure can be found at www.HRCBackStory.org.

An estimated 87% of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their equal employment policies, and more than one-third also include gender identity. More than 80 companies have joined the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, a group of leading U.S. employers that support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. To view a list of the companies, visit: www.HRC.org/Workplace.

ENDA is supported by a broad range of civil rights, religious, civic and professional organizations, including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, NAACP, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, AFSCME, National Education Association, National Employment Lawyers Association, Anti-Defamation League, Religious Action Center, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, American Civil Liberties Union, and many others.

Currently, federal law provides legal protection against employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. In 29 states across America, it is still legal to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation, and in 38 states, it is still legal to fire someone for being transgender.

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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