Historic vote — ENDA passes in Senate

President Barack Obama, a strong backer of the legislation, issued the following statement after the vote:

For more than two centuries, the story of our nation has been the story of more citizens realizing the rights and freedoms that are our birthright as Americans.  Today, a bipartisan majority in the Senate took another important step in this journey by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would help end the injustice of our fellow Americans being denied a job or fired just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  Just as no one in the United States can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, no one should ever lose their job simply because of who they are or who they love.

Today’s victory is a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago.  In particular, I thank Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, Senators Merkley and Collins for their leadership, and Senator Kirk for speaking so eloquently in support of this legislation. Now it’s up to the House of Representatives. This bill has the overwhelming support of the American people, including a majority of Republican voters, as well as many corporations, small businesses and faith communities.  They recognize that our country will be more just and more prosperous when we harness the God-given talents of every individual.

One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do. Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it. I urge the House Republican leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and send it to my desk so I can sign it into law. On that day, our nation will take another historic step toward fulfilling the founding ideals that define us as Americans.

Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff sttorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta and coordinator of Lambda Legal’s employment discrimination work, released the following statement:

LGBT equality keeps advancing because fairness is a fundamental American value. This historic vote marks the first time a congressional chamber approved an inclusive bill to protect all LGBT people, including people who are transgender, from discrimination at work. With an inclusive ENDA passing the Senate, we are one step closer to passing a law that will ensure workplace equality for the LGBT community.

ENDA will make clear that a person’s job performance, rather than sexual orientation or gender identity, should determine success on the job – a proposition that Americans overwhelmingly support. Fairness in employment is a fundamental American principle and it should apply to all workers in America.

Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, added these words:

Only 17 states and the District of Columbia expressly ban discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Another four states expressly ban sexual orientation discrimination. We still lack nationwide binding and explicit protections against discrimination in the workplace. That’s just unacceptable.

Fairness and equal opportunity in employment are fundamental American principles, and they should apply to all workers in America. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will bring clarity and uniformity that will benefit employers who just want to know and follow the rules. And with a federal law in place, employees will be less likely to suffer discrimination in the first place.

Lambda Legal fought hard for a fully inclusive ENDA, and we’re proud that the bill approved by the Senate prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

The bill passed today is flawed because it has a religious exemption in it that would leave LGBT employees with less protection against discrimination than other groups protected by law. (Read more about this.)  Lambda Legal will continue to fight to keep the final version of ENDA from having unwarranted loopholes and exceptions. We need a strong ENDA that leaves no one behind.