On Capitol Hill: Legislation to ban discrimination based on sexuality in the workplace has been re-introduced in Congress.
The bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would address workplace discrimination, making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. The new bill was filed in the House of Representatives by Democratic Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Republican Reps. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) and Chris Shays (R-CT).
Current federal law provides legal protection against employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin and disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. Some states have various degrees of protections for LGBT workers. However, it is still it legal to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in 33 states. Moreover, in 42 states, it is still legal to fire someone for being transgender.
"In my judgment, this is common-sense legislation. Working men and women should be judged on the basis of their performance at work. They should not have to fear being fired because of their sexual orientation," said Shays, who is one of House's more moderate Republican members.
Rep. Frank—who along with Rep. Baldwin is openly gay—says ENDA would add workplace protections for employees that were pioneered in states like Wisconsin some 20 years ago. "It has caused none of the problems that opponents inaccurately claimed it would and it has provided job protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who ask simply to be allowed do their jobs and be judged on their job performance."
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese joined the bipartisan sponsors at a news conference and noted that ENDA would be similar to policies already in place at America’s largest most companies, with 87 percent of Fortune 500 companies including sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. "We are a nation predicated on equality, and over the years, we have embraced an increasingly broader and more inclusive vision of what that means,” Solmonese said. “By passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, our country will simply be adding another proud chapter to the amazing American story of opportunity.”
For more than a decade under the Republican-controlled Congress, ENDA has languished in one form or another. Many Democrats are confident that the bill will finally be able to pass this Congress.
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