Just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and restored marriage in California, the LGBT community is celebrating another historic victory.
In a 15 to 7 vote, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
While federal laws exist to protect other classes of workers on the basis of sex, religion, race, age, and ethnicity — no federal law is currently in place to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in the workplace.
ENDA won overwhelming bipartisan approval, and the HELP vote represents the first time transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination legislation has ever advanced in Congress.
"No one should have to live in fear that they will lose their job, their home, or their security for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance," said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation. "As momentum continues to build toward passage of nondiscrimination policies in the states, we urge swift approval of federal ENDA by the Senate and House."
Several states have enacted laws protecting LGBT workers, but in 33 states, it's entirely legal to fire someone, deny them a promotion, or harass them simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Even as federal ENDA moves forward, it's critical that we continue to work toward passage of nondiscrimination laws in all fifty states across this nation.
"The vast majority of Americans — from business owners to faith leaders, Republicans to Democrats — support comprehensive employment nondiscrimination policies at both the state and federal level," said Isaacs. "It's time we treat all people fairly and equally under the law. It's time we protect all our workers. It's time for Congress and state legislatures across this country to act."
As we continue work to advance equality on all fronts — in the courts, at the Capitol, and in State Houses across the country — it's important that we stop to celebrate our victories. ENDA's passage out of committee is a truly historic step forward for this critical legislation.
And we must keep the bill moving. We join with our partners and members in calling on the Senate and the House to approve ENDA and send it to President Obama who has pledged his support:
In a statement made by the Press Secretary, President Barack Obama “welcomes the bipartisan approval”, as he “has long supported an inclusive ENDA, which would enshrine into law strong, lasting and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We look forward to the full Senate’s consideration of ENDA, and continue to urge the House to move forward on this bill that upholds America’s core values of fairness and equality.”