With the U.S. Senate expected to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this week, the bill that would protect LGBT people from being fired from their jobs simply because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, hit a significant hurdle Monday — House Speaker John Boehner.
"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement, according to a story in Huffington Post.
Federal ENDA to pass in Senate but Boehner expected to halt LGBT bill in House
Boehner’s opposition to the bill means it will likely not pass in the House and passage in the Senate will become a symbolic effort.
The Senate reached the 60 votes it needed to pass the bill today when Republican Dean Heller of Nevada said he would support the bill. At least five Republicans plus the entire 55 Democratic majority already support the bill.
When Heller announced his support for ENDA, he said the bill “raises the federal standards to match what we have come to expect in Nevada, which is that discrimination must not be tolerated under any circumstance.”
Federal law bans the firing of an employee based on race, sex and national origin but ENDA includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
There is still some concern among some activists due to “religious exemptions” included in ENDA. Basically, as ENDA is written now, institutions such as churches or religious schools would still be able to fire or not hire LGBT workers.
Anti-gay groups are up in arms about ENDA and the Family Research Council posted on its website under the heading, “It’s the ENDA the World as We Know It” that, “Under this bill, the same community that said it wanted to keep the government out of its bedroom would be bringing their bedroom to work — where employers would be forced to reward workers based on their sexual preferences.”
President Barack Obama issued a statement late Tuesday urging the passage of ENDA.
Here in the United States, we’re united by a fundamental principle: we’re all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We believe that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the chance to follow your dreams and pursue your happiness. That’s America’s promise.
That’s why, for instance, Americans can’t be fired from their jobs just because of the color of their skin or for being Christian or Jewish or a woman or an individual with a disability. That kind of discrimination has no place in our nation. And yet, right now, in 2013, in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
As a result, millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs — not because of anything they’ve done, but simply because of who they are. It’s offensive. It’s wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.
That’s why Congress needs to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill has strong bipartisan support and the support of a vast majority of Americans. It ought to be the law of the land.
Americans ought to be judged by one thing only in their workplaces: their ability to get their jobs done. Does it make a difference if the firefighter who rescues you is gay — or the accountant who does your taxes, or the mechanic who fixes your car? If someone works hard every day, does everything he or she is asked, is responsible and trustworthy and a good colleague, that’s all that should matter.
Business agrees. The majority of Fortune 500 companies and small businesses already have nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT employees. These companies know that it’s both the right thing to do and makes good economic sense. They want to attract and retain the best workers, and discrimination makes it harder to do that.
So too with our nation. If we want to create more jobs and economic growth and keep our country competitive in the global economy, we need everyone working hard, contributing their ideas, and putting their abilities to use doing what they do best. We need to harness the creativity and talents of every American.
So I urge the Senate to vote yes on ENDA and the House of Representatives to do the same. Several Republican Senators have already voiced their support, as have a number of Republicans in the House. If more members of Congress step up, we can put an end to this form of discrimination once and for all.
Passing ENDA would build on the progress we’ve made in recent years. We stood up against hate crimes with the Matthew Shepard Act and lifted the entry ban for travelers with HIV. We ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” so our brave servicemen and women can serve openly the country they love, no matter who they love. We prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals that receive federal funding, and we passed the Violence Against Women Act, which includes protections for LGBT Americans.
My Administration had stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that discriminatory law. Now we’re implementing that ruling, giving married couples access to the federal benefits they were long denied. And across the nation, as more and more states recognize marriage equality, we’re seeing loving couples — some who have been together for decades — finally join their hands in marriage.
America is at a turning point. We’re not only becoming more accepting and loving as a people, we’re becoming more just as a nation. But we still have a way to go before our laws are equal to our Founding ideals. As I said in my second inaugural address, our nation’s journey toward equality isn’t complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
In America of all places, people should be judged on the merits: on the contributions they make in their workplaces and communities, and on what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the content of their character.” That’s what ENDA helps us do. When Congress passes it, I will sign it into law, and our nation will be fairer and stronger for generations to come.
Today, the Executive Office of the President Office of Management and Budget issued this statement:
The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of [ENDA] because the bill would establish lasting and comprehensive Federal protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
This bipartisan legislation is necessary to ensure that strong Federal protections exist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers no matter where they live. Workers should not fear being fired from their jobs, harassed at their workplaces, or otherwise denied the chance to earn a living for themselves and their families, simply because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
This legislation would, for the first time in this Nation’s history, make explicit in Federal law such guarantees, which are consistent with America’s core values of fairness and equality. Passage of this bill is long overdue.