Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday that he would push for a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a long-suffering bill that would prohibit employment bias based on sexual orientation and gender expression. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed ENDA last July. Reid said the full Senate would vote on the bill before Thanksgiving, the first vote on the legislation since its introduction 17 years ago.
Politico reported that Senate sources were confident they could obtain the 60 votes needed to guarantee a floor vote.
But LGBT groups are not leaving anything to chance. Two Democratic Senators—Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas—have not publicly backed ENDA. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) announced his support yesterday, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 54. Freedom to Work, an LGBT labor rights group, is lobbying Manchin and Pryor for their votes.
“Senators Manchin and Pryor are now the only two Democrats playing coy about whether they will stand on the right side of history,” said Tico Almeida, founder and President of Freedom to Work. “ENDA simply says a corporation can’t fire you just because of who you are or who you love, and Americans want a country where people are judged for the job they do based on their skills and hard work, not their sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge Sen. Manchin and Sen. Pryor to stand with the majority of Americans, and the majority of people in their states and support the LGBT freedom to work.”
Earlier this month, two major political donors, Democrat Jonathan Lewis of Miami and Republican Paul Singer of New York, pledged $500,000 to support the efforts of Americans for Workplace Opportunity (AWO), the collaborative campaign to pass ENDA.
In a new poll released this fall, more than 60 percent of West Virginians, and 61 percent of Arkansans Nationwide, more than 81 percent of Democratic voters, a majority of Republican voters, 61 percent of senior citizens, and 72 percent of Latinos support a federal law to protect LGBT Americans from workplace harassment and discrimination.