The US Senate made history today voting 64-32 to pass unrecedented legislation to extend occupational fortification to the LGBT community. This law will ban workplace discrimination on the bases of gender identity and sexual orientation. But didn’t these protections already exist in the original Employment Non-Discrimination Act? Actually, the ENDA has never been federally enforced. There are no state laws in 29 states that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 33 states that do so based on gender identity. As a result, qualified, hardworking Americans are denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise discriminated against just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
“The time has come for Congress to pass a federal law that ensures all citizens, regardless of where they live, can go to work not afraid of who they are,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, adding that many Americans are under the impression that ENDA is already federal law. “Well it isn’t already the law. But that is what they feel. Let’s do what the American people think already exists.”
Supermajorities of Republicans and Democrats support ENDA. Over half of the voters, including several Republicans support a federal law protecting the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace. Although the majority of people support this bill, it still has to go to the House where Speaker John Boehner who strongly opposes the legislation will most likely not allow the bill to proceed.
Though the bill’s outcome remains uncertain, the Senate vote was a key moment for gay rights. Ten Republicans merged together with 54 Democrats to interrupt a filibuster, including numerous members who had previously had their doubts.
As Bill Clinton famously said: