This week, in Washington D.C, the senate passed a bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), that makes a federal law that does not allow discrimination based on sexual orientation within the workplace.
The bill ENDA prohibits employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against employees or potential employees, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Such protections are already in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.
Though this was not the first attempt at federal prohibition of LGBTQ workplace discrimination, with the first being in 1974,
Since 1994 there previously had been attempts each year at passing an anti-discrimination bill, each time met with high levels of resistance.
In the opening debates earlier this week each senator put forth an argument about the importance and common sense of ENDA. During the debate, senator Merkley stated that “everyone, gay or straight, should have the right to work hard and earn a living.” Merkley went further to argue that this bill was about human rights and equality.
Senator Kirk brought out some big figures within the Republican Party to cite his reasoning, saying “The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is about civil rights. In Illinois, we aspire to continue Abraham Lincoln’s legacy of fighting for liberty and human dignity.”
He later went on to persuade the Republican party with economic reasons, citing “the fact that a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have taken steps to stop discrimination in the workplace highlights that our action is overdue.”
Senator Harkin brought out statistics, starting with the fact that “forty-two percent of lesbian gay and bisexual workers report having experienced some form of discrimination at work.”
Harkins went on further to say, “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans deserve the same civil rights protections from discrimination as all other Americans. This bill will accomplish that. It will say to millions of LGBT Americans that they are full and welcome members of our American family, and that they deserve the same civil rights protections as all other Americans.”
Senator Collins brought out the ideal of the American dream, saying, “All Americans deserve a fair opportunity to pursue the American dream. Over the years, we have rightly taken a stand against workplace discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, religion, age, and disability. It is past time we ensure that all employees are judged on their talents, abilities, their hard work, and capabilities by closing an important gap in federal law as it relates to sexual orientation.”
The passing of the bill ENDA is a major step in creating equality for the LGBTQ community, and with any major step there is a time for having a euphoric rejoice, though there is still some major “check-points” needed to be reached for the overall equality of any minority.