The legislation has been pending for nearly two decades, but in this Congress, ENDA will have more support than ever before.
In the United States today, it’s perfectly legal under federal law and in a majority of states to fire someone for being LGBT. Today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate once again introduced legislation that would change that.
If passed, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA) would prohibit most public and private employers from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Led by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), this commonsense bill levels the playing field for LGBT workers by finally affording them the same workplace rights and safeguards afforded to other protected classes on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and disability, among others.
The full list of cosponsors is not yet available online, but Jared Polis’ press release points to bipartisan backing in both chambers: in addition to the many Democrats backing ENDA, the bill has also drawn the support of a few Republicans: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) in the House, and Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Susan Collins (Maine) in the Senate.
What’s more, President Obama has said, on multiple occasions, that he would welcome the opportunity to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Many Capitol Hill watchers will be keeping an eye on Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who recently endorsed marriage equality, citing his gay son. If he believes gay Americans deserve equal marriage rights, will he also endorse the right of gay Americans not to be fired because of their sexual orientation?
Portman’s position notwithstanding, this is a bill worth watching. It’s not unrealistic to think ENDA could overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate, and though the House would be a much tougher lift, many leading backers believe the combination of Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans makes success at least possible.