WASHINGTON—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement in response to an announcement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, would soon come to the full Senate for a vote. Harkin, as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, oversaw the bipartisan passage of ENDA in the Committee this July.
“Ensuring that our workplaces are free from discrimination is a key part of equality and full rights for all Americans. Current laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on race, sex, national origin, religion, age and disability—yet our LGBT neighbors, friends, and colleagues can still be fired or passed over for a job on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Harkin said. “It is time for Congress to remedy this inequality, and I am pleased to see that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will soon come before the full Senate for consideration. I urge my colleagues to do what is right—for LGBT Americans and for our economy—and pass this critical civil rights bill.”
The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Chairman Harkin, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), 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. The bill would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Such protections are already in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability. As of April 2013, 434 (88 percent) of the Fortune 500 companies had implemented non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, and 282 (57 percent) had policies that include gender identity.