More Light Presbyterians urges senators in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee to vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). No one should be denied job opportunities, be fired or otherwise discriminated against because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ). The HELP committee considers the bill on Wednesday, July 10.

“The cruel irony of the Supreme Court marriage decisions,” writes Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director, “is that an LGBT couple could get married one day, and on the very next day, because we still don’t have federal laws to ban employment discrimination, those same individuals could be fired from their jobs.”

Section 2 of S. 815, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, lists the three purposes for the bill:

(1) to address the history and persistent, widespread pattern of discrimination, including unconstitutional discrimination, on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity by private sector employers and local, State, and Federal Government employers;

(2) to provide an explicit, comprehensive Federal prohibition against employment discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity, including meaningful and effective remedies for any such discrimination; and

(3) to invoke congressional powers, including the powers to enforce the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and to regulate interstate commerce pursuant to section 8 of article I of the Constitution, in order to prohibit employment discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “ENDA simply affords to all Americans basic employment protection from discrimination based on irrational prejudice. The bill is closely modeled on existing civil rights laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bill explicitly prohibits preferential treatment and quotas and does not permit disparate impact suits. In addition, it exempts small businesses, religious organizations and the military.”

Fifty-three senators support ENDA. The Senate bill is sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).  In the House, Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have introduced a companion bill.

Sponsors of ENDA had this to say:

“Discrimination is just plain wrong.  It is shocking that there is still anywhere in America where it is legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Merkley said. “Americans understand that it’s time to make sure our LGBT friends and family are treated fairly and have the same opportunities as all Americans.  Now it’s time for our laws to catch up.  People should be judged at work on their ability to do the job, period.”

“I am proud to join my colleagues in the House and Senate to re-introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It is inherently unfair that many skilled, qualified and motivated LGBT members of our communities too often experience rejections at job interviews, are denied promotions, or other forms of harassment in the workplace, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is unacceptable. Federal law is currently failing these LGBT individuals and consequently, a majority of states still allow employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill that we are proposing will end this unacceptable practice by prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. No American should have to fear harassment at work, or risk losing their livelihood because of who they are. That is why Congress needs to work to get this bill passed and set a national standard of equality for all in the workplace.”

“I am proud to join a bi-partisan effort that advances our founding belief that all Americans are created equal under the law. Together, we believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at the American Dream and that our LGBT family members, friends, and neighbors deserve to be treated like everyone else in the United States,” Baldwin said. “This legislation is a reflection of our commitment to ending discrimination against our fellow citizens simply because of who they love. I am hopeful and optimistic that we can now move forward to build a tomorrow that is more equal, not less, for all Americans.”

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