On Thursday, November 7, 2013, The Senate passed historic legislation that will potentially ban workplace discrimination against gay and transgender employees. If successful, this will serve as another milestone for the gay rights movement.
The vote, 64 to 32, to approve the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)” is the first federally approved legislation for an advancement in gay rights since the military ban on gays and lesbians in uniform was repealed in late 2010. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the ENDA would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 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.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the bill would extend, on a national level, protections already available in a number of states. Currently, 22 states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 18 also forbid discrimination based on gender identity. However, the bill also includes an exemption for houses of worship and religiously affiliated organizations, such as hospitals and charities.
Despite the vote, the ENDA may still face an uphill battle in the GOP – controlled House due to social conservatives who believe that the people ENDA is intended to protect are already covered by existing federal, state and private workplace protection laws.
For more information on this bill, please visit the Human Rights Campaign at www.hrc.org.