Yesterday Harry Reid announced that the Senate will vote on the Employment NonDiscrimination Act (ENDA), described as a bill to expand the workplace rights, before Congress breaks for Thanksgiving.
Reid said the Senate will consider a version of the bill which would “work against discrimination on gender identity.” That is, the version will be trans-inclusive. Currently 29 states have no laws protecting workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 33 states have no employment protections based on gender identity.
Reid and the Democrats know that the bill stands little chance in the House, but denial by the House would provide the party with “another opportunity to paint the GOP as out of step with most Americans.” Polls have shown that upwards of 70% of Americans favor equal protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Indeed the Human Rights Campaign points to a recent poll of 2000 registered voters conducted by conservative pollstersTargetPoint which revealed that 80% of respondents believe that federal law already forbids employers from firing, refusing to hire or refusing to promote someone because they are LGBT. Sixty percent said they believed that anti-LGBT discrimination was a problem, including 54% of Republicans. Sixty-eight percent of respondents favored passage of ENDA, while 21% were opposed (with 15% who “strongly oppose” the bill). Republicans favor passage 56% to 32%.
Americans for Workplace Opportunity also released a recent study, which found that 9 out of 10 Americans had the mistaken belief that federal law already protects LGBT people from workplace discrimination, in the face of studies that have shown that 43% of LGBT people have experienced such discrimination, including 90% of transgender employees. AWO found that 85% of Democrats support workplace protections along with 78% of Independents and 70% of Republicans. Support among Observant Christians was 77% and in the Deep South was 72%. Even Seniors favor protections at a rate of 69%.
We tried, it failed in the House of Representatives before, but we’re going to take it up here again.
The legislation nearly passed in 1996, but has not been voted on in the Senate since. It passed the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in July with votes in favor including Republicans Orrin Hatch of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mark Kirk of Illinois.
The bill (S. 815 and H.R. 1755), as written, explicitly prohibits preferential treatment and quotas and does not permit disparate impact suits, while exempting small businesses, religious organizations, and the military.