Congress is about to take up an incredibly important bill that will affect thousands of American workers. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was reintroduced in the House last week and in the Senate today, would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most American workplaces. Though the bill has been introduced countless times in several iterations, it has never been made law.
ENDA, which is similar to other federal civil rights laws barring workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability, offers this Congress and American employers the opportunity to ensure workplace equality for everyone by protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees from discrimination in employment. Currently, it remains legal to fire or refuse to hire someone for being lesbian, gay or bisexual in 29 states, while transgender workers can legally be denied or refused jobs in 37 states.
This crucial and long overdue legislation will allow all American workers who stand side-by-side at the workplace and contribute with equal measure in their jobs to also stand on the same equal footing under the law.
It is fundamentally unacceptable that in America in the year 2011 there is a group of people who, when they go to work, are forced to deny their families and loved ones and hide who they are for fear of losing their livelihood. Particularly with unemployment numbers still so high, it makes absolutely no sense to add otherwise talented, dedicated workers to the unemployment rolls, simply because they have the “wrong” sexual orientation or gender identity. By passing ENDA, Congress can help to ensure that everyone can enter and succeed in the workplace without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.
With Congress voting to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” late last year and the Obama administration choosing not to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act last month, the momentum for LGBT equality is rapidly growing. Congress needs to take up ENDA this session and continue that momentum so we can ensure that LGBT Americans and their families are protected at work.