U.S. Rep. Barney Frank reintroduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ) March 30, characterizing it as "winnable."
But the bill, which seeks to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by employers, is unlikely to move during the current Congressional sessionprimarily because the Republican Party controls the House.
The bill is typically assigned to the House Committee on Education and Labor, now chaired by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. In 2009, during a committee hearing on the bill, Kline said his many concerns about the bill in previous years "have not been alleviated" by its recent rewrite.
Kline said then that ENDA "creates an entirely new protected class that is vaguely defined and often subjective." Specifically, he objected to the language of the bill prohibiting discrimination based on "perceived sexual orientation."
"Attempting to legislate individual perceptions is truly uncharted territory," said Kline, "and it does not take a legal scholar to recognize that such vaguely defined protections will lead to an explosion in litigation and inconsistent judicial decisions."
Kline also said he thought legislators should consider the "consequences" ENDA might have on "religious and family-based organizations."
A press person for Kline's committee office did not return a call by deadline March 30 but, given that the language of the bill has not changed since 2009, there seems little likelihood that Kline will enable a committee hearing or vote on the bill this session.
Still, supporters of the measure say it's important to have the bill in the Congressional hopper, as it provides a tool around which supporters can lobby legislators to support the measure in a future session.
Julie Edwards, a spokeswoman for Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said yesterday that Merkley is working with his fellow co-sponsors to prepare ENDA for reintroduction there "in the next few weeks."
The Senate is still controlled by Democrats and the bill received a hearing in the last session. But it did not get a vote in committee.
The last time ENDA got a vote in the Senate was 1996, when it came within one vote of passage. The Senate was controlled then by Republicans.
A version of ENDA passed the House in 2007.
However, in both the House and Senate votes, the version of ENDA on the floor was one that included only sexual orientation, not gender identity.
By 2009, the LGBT community of organizations stood firm and insisted that ENDA also included a prohibition on discrimination based on gender identity. And in 2009 and this year, ENDA does include both.
The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund issued a press release March 30, saying that 47 percent of transgender people surveyed reported being fired or denied a job because they are transgender.
The "gender identity" language would protect not just people who are transitioning from one sex to another, but also those whose outward appearance does not conform with common expectations for their gender.
A press release from Frank's office noted that there are no laws in 29 states to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in employment and none in 38 states to prohibit gender identity discrimination.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued a statement, pitching ENDA as a jobs bill, an appeal that would presumably attract more Republican support.
"Passing ENDA is a key element of making sure all Americans can get back to work and get our country moving again," said Solmonese.
Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart took a similar approach, saying, "With ENDA now reintroduced, it is time for Congress to make good on its promise to focus on the top priority of all Americans - good jobs and economic security."
Republicans have said publicly they want to focus on jobs.
However, they have also indicated they want broad exemptions for religious organizations, and that is something that does not sit well for many supporters of ENDA.
Frank's office was not able to provide a copy of the bill prior to deadline today and a copy of the bill.
©2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force statement
WASHINGTON, March 30 The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force applauds today's U.S. House reintroduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ) , which would protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure was reintroduced by Rep. Barney Frank ( D-Mass. ) . National Gay and Lesbian Task Force staff were on hand for today's press conference announcing ENDA's reintroduction. The Task Force was the first national organization to advocate for federal nondiscrimination protections when it worked with then-U.S. Reps. Bella Abzug and Ed Koch to introduce legislation in 1974. It has played a leading role in ensuring ENDA is explicitly inclusive of transgender people.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality recently released Injustice at Every Turn, which reveals the depth of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people. The study is the first large-scale national study of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming Americans, and paints a more complete picture than any prior research to date. According to Injustice at Every Turn, respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment in the workplace, and one in four reported being fired because of their gender identity or expression.
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
"ENDA reflects the core U.S. values of fairness and ensuring everyone is allowed to participate on a level playing field in the workplace. People recognize that our nation as a whole benefits when everyone is allowed to contribute their talents and skills, free from discrimination, which is all ENDA seeks to do. An overwhelming majority of Americans has long supported protecting their friends, family and neighbors from such discrimination. They know it's wrong to deprive lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of the ability to earn a livelihood and provide for their families simply because of who they are.
"ENDA's passage is long overdue. Our community has provided numbers and personal stories, and we have endured as we've watched LGBT workers lose their foothold in a struggling economy not because of downsizing, or poor performance or shuttered businesses but because of prejudice and because there are no institutional consequences to arbitrary and unethical behavior by individuals or businesses who would exclude LGBT people from the basic tenets of our democracy.
"We thank Rep. Barney Frank for reintroducing this bill and all the representatives who support this critical legislation. We are also pleased that President Obama has expressed support for ENDA and call upon the administration to play a role in assisting with its passage."
To learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, visit www.theTaskForce.org
and follow us on Twitter: @TheTaskForce.
Lambda Legal applauds introduction of the Employment Non-discrimination Act in Congress
"Fairness and equal opportunity in employment are fundamental American principles and they should apply to all Americans."
( Washington, D.C., March 30, 2011 ) - Today after Rep. Barney Frank introduced the Employment Non-discrimination Act ( ENDA ) , a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Executive Director, Kevin Cathcart:
"With ENDA now re-introduced, it is time for Congress to make good on its promise to focus on the top priority of all Americans - good jobs and economic security. Especially in this economy, everyone can understand the concerns of LGBT Americans who face discrimination in employment without a clear federal law that prohibits it. It is long past time to address this inequality and pass a law the provides fairness for workers without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. We thank Representative Barney Frank for introducing the bill.
"Typically, workplace discrimination is the number one complaint among people seeking assistance from our Legal Help Desk. Workplace equality has been a top priority for all of Lambda Legal's 38 year history.
"Despite the fact that the majority of Americans favor workplace protections for LGBT people, only 20 states plus the District of Columbia specifically ban workplace discrimination in the private sector based on sexual orientation and only 13 states plus D.C. expressly ban discrimination based on gender identity. ENDA would ensure that in most workplaces a person's qualifications and job performance, rather than sexual orientation or gender identity, will be the factors that determine success on the job. Fairness and equal opportunity in employment are fundamental American principles and they should apply to all Americans.
"ENDA would provide a powerful tool for Lambda Legal to do what it does best: work through the courts to ensure equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the country. We call on Congress to enact ENDA and end discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity."
Catholics for Equality Applauds the Reintroduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
WASHINGTON - Catholics for Equality, a national organization of Catholics who put their faith into ethical and effective political action on behalf of the LGBT community and their families, applauds today's reintroduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ) . The legislation, which includes broad religious exemptions and has the support of 73% of American Catholics, would make it illegal to fire or deny employment to an individual simply because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Such discrimination is currently legal in 38 of the 50 states.
The organization also calls for greater education around the need to end discrimination based on gender identity and expression. A recent survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality of over 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming Americans found that discrimination against them is pervasive throughout our nation. The study, "Injustice at Every Turn," further showed the combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural racism to be especially devastating.
"No person of faith could read the statistics in this study and not weep," said Catholics for Equality Executive Director Phil Attey. "Catholic social justice teaching compels us to be the Good Samaritans in this world and to care for the least of our brethren. Support for this bill will show us who the Good Samaritans are in the 112th Congress."
Catholics for Equality has named ENDA as one of its top legislative priorities and has distributed Catholic-specific messaging on this issue to the 24 Catholic Senators and 133 Catholic Representatives in the 112th Congress.
Statement of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI )
"It is extremely important for Congress to recognize and address discrimination that exists in employment against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It is up to Congress to assert that such discrimination is illegal and un-American," said Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin ( D-WI ) , Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. "I am proud to join Congressman Frank and our colleagues in introducing this inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and look forward to working with them this Congress to advance the legislation," Baldwin said.