November 5, 2009

Congress Should Pass ENDA During This Session, Says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON – The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hear testimony today from an Obama administration official on S. 1584, a bill that would finally end workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. There is similar legislation pending in the House, which held a hearing in September. This will be the first hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate in 2009 and the first Senate hearing on legislation of its kind since 2002.

Currently, it remains legal to fire or refuse to hire someone for being lesbian, gay or bisexual in 29 states, while transgender workers can be denied or refused jobs in 38 states. If passed, ENDA would become the first-ever federal ban on employment discrimination of LGBT people in most workplaces.

“There is a group of Americans who, when they go to work, are forced to deny the existence of their families and loved ones and hide who they are for fear of losing their livelihood. That is simply unacceptable,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office. “America cannot continue to marginalize an entire group of workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Given our country’s current economic condition, we can’t afford for Congress not to pass this bill.”

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the newly confirmed head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, will testify today for the Obama administration in favor of ENDA. It will be the first time any official of any administration has testified in the Senate on ENDA, and will also be the first congressional testimony of Perez in his current position as the nation’s top civil rights law enforcement official.

Current gaps in our state civil rights laws leave many LGBT people and their families vulnerable to employment discrimination based purely on who they are. Employment discrimination can have a devastating effect on LGBT Americans and the families they support. ENDA would create a federal guideline that would make certain that all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Americans can exercise their right to make a living free from discrimination.

“With hearings on ENDA in both the House and Senate and a demonstrated commitment to protecting our country’s workforce, Congress has shown a commitment to passing this groundbreaking legislation and getting it to the president’s desk,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “The testimony of the Obama administration’s top civil rights law enforcement official adds to the momentum that is building behind this bill, and there’s no reason ENDA can’t be on the president’s desk for signature during this Congress. The right to work is fundamental and shouldn’t be denied to any American based on his or her gender identity or sexual orientation. Ensuring that ENDA passes and becomes law will guarantee that everyone can participate and succeed in the workplace without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A copy of an ACLU report, Working in the Shadows: Ending Employment Discrimination for LGBT Americans, documenting widespread discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers is available at: www.aclu.org/lgbt/discrim/31836pub20070917.html

To read the ACLU’s letter to the Senate HELP Committee on ENDA and Sovereign Immunity, go to: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/aclu-letter-senate-help-committee-enda-and-sovereign-immunity

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