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Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA NOW

Even as the Senate brings the health care bill to the floor for a vote, there is a lot of unfinished business in this 111th Congress. One of those areas is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA.  The bill has been assigned the numbers  in the Senate S. 1584 and in the House H.R. 3017.

ENDA was introduced in the 111th Congress by Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in the House. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME). ENDA has been heard in committees  On September 23, 2009, the House Education and Labor Committee held a full committee hearing in the House on the legislation. On November 5, 2009, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) also held a hearing on the bill.

But there lies the problem.  ENDA needs to come out for a vote. But it like many pieces of legislation are taking a back seat to the Health Care Debate and the atrocious sell-out of women’s reproductive health in the latest Senate version of health care reform.

ENDA is a matter of health and well-being for the GLBT community.  According to the HRC website  This is what ENDA Does:

  • Extends federal employment discrimination protections currently provided based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability to sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Prohibits public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotion or compensation
  • Provides for the same procedures, and similar, but somewhat more limited, remedies as are permitted under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Applies to Congress and the federal government, as well as employees of state and local governments

What ENDA Does Not Do:

  • Cover businesses with fewer than 15 employees
  • Apply to religious organizations
  • Apply to the uniformed members of the armed forces (the bill doesn’t affect the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy)
  • Allow for quotas or preferential treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Allow a “disparate impact” claim similar to the one available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Therefore, an employer is not required to justify a neutral practice that may have a statistically disparate impact on individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Allow the imposition of affirmative action for a violation of ENDA
  • Allow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect statistics on sexual orientation or gender identity or compel employers to collect such statistics.
  • Apply retroactively

When one is lucky enough to have a job-but you are worried constantly about being fired for being gay or lesbian or a transgender person this surely takes a toll on one’s health and well-being.  Stress is a well documented killer.  There are 33 states that have no job protections for gay people. You can be fired for simply being gay or lesbian or a transgender individual. 33 STATES!

 Since 2004 we have been trying to get a version of ENDA passed in Congress. We are closer than ever. But our legislators have to hear from us that this is critical. 

We have to raise the stakes. It appears that the Winter Congressional Break will conclude without consideration of ENDA. But we have to keep their feet to the fire and the feet of President OBAMA.

This is a matter of health care for the GLBT community as well as dignity and a right to work issue.   It is a fairness issue.  It is a moral issue.

Don’t let up.  Call and email and call again so that ENDA can come to the floor after the first of the year and hold the Democrats and moderate Republicans  accountable.  They take lavender money eagerly but they need to do more.  And we have to require more of them and of us!

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