Inclusive ENDA Advances in the Senate for First Time
Today, for the first time ever, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to advance and inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 815). If passed, ENDA would finally make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, demote or fail to promote an employee based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite massive popular support ENDA has been introduced, unsuccessfully, in nearly every Congress for the past 20 years.
Speaking at today’s hearing Chairman Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) remarked on his hope that this year could be a turning point, “From the bottom up, a rapidly growing majority of Americans are demanding equal rights for citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. And, the week before last, the Supreme Court recognized the fundamental rights of married same-sex couples.” Senator Harkin’s anticipation of a better chance of passing protections for the LGBT community was reinforced as, just moments after the Chairman’s opening remarks, the committee voted to advance ENDA 15-7. The democrats on the committee (all of whom were co-sponsors of the bill) were joined by three Republicans: Senator Orrin Hatch (UT), Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) and one of the bill’s champions Senator Mark Kirk (IL).
“This vote demonstrates that the Senate is ready to put aside partisan differences to ensure that all Americans can earn a living without fear of discrimination based on who they are or whom they love,” The Religious Action Center’s Deputy Director Rachel Laser said in a statement after leaving the Senate hearing room, “We urge the rest of the Senate to continue this spirit of collaboration as this landmark legislation moves to the Senate floor.”
The Religious Action Center has played a key role in organizing the faith community in support of ENDA, submitting to the Congressional Record a letter signed by over fifty religious organizations, including nine national denominations. We will continue this important work as this landmark legislation moves to the Senate floor (where Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote this fall) and then on to the House of Representatives.
Check back here at RACblog for all of the latest developments.