NCLR: The Employment Non-Discrimination Act Necessary and Overdue for Workers

(Washington, DC, November 5, 2009) —The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) commends the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for convening hearings today on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 (ENDA), S. 1584. This essential legislation would provide clear federal protection against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. A similar hearing was held in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor on September 23, and a full vote is possible before the end of the year.

Testifying at the hearing, Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice said, “I am here to voice the Obama Administration’s support for fully inclusive legislation to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He continued to say, “The passage of ENDA is a top legislative priority for the Obama administration…ENDA must be the next step in civil rights.”

“We are grateful to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for taking up this critical issue,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “We encourage legislators to move quickly to enact ENDA, which is needed to protect workers and their jobs. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees have waited too long for this protection, and should no longer have to fear losing their jobs based on factors that are unrelated to job qualifications or work performance. It’s past time for Congress to send ENDA to the President.”

Federal law currently provides basic legal protection against employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin or disability. It remains legal in 29 states to fire or refuse to hire someone simply because of his or her sexual orientation, and in 37 states it is legal to do so based solely on an individual’s gender identity or expression. A solid majority of people in this country support job protections for LGBTQ workers. Since 1994, ENDA has been repeatedly introduced in the House and Senate, but each Congress has failed to send it to the President. President Obama has pressed Congress to pass the bill and promised to sign it.

NCLR has long supported passage of ENDA to ensure that the entire LGBTQ community is protected from workplace discrimination and has a full time field organizer working to organize local action teams in key communities to educate members of Congress and their staffs about the problem of gender identity and expression discrimination.

“Congress must act now to send this bill to the President’s desk,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Price Minter. “It is inexcusable that such protections don’t already exist. Legislators once again have a chance to pass meaningful civil rights legislation that would end this injustice and help ensure fairness and equality in the workplace.”

For more information about ENDA, visit: www.nclrights.org/ENDA.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.