Will ENDA Pass?

An important bill, now before Congress, has the potential to improve the lives of LGBT Americans and expand our rights

An important bill, now before Congress, has the potential to improve the lives of LGBT Americans and expand our rights.

On April 25, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in Congress by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) If ENDA becomes law, employers will no longer be able to fire LGBT employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA would prohibit LGBT discrimination in the workplace, with certain exemptions for employers with religious affiliations. Both legislative bodies proposed the bill in the midst of what Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin called “a bipartisan sea change for LGBT equality.”

According to The Advocate, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) says that he plans to get the ball rolling on ENDA in Congress by this July.

ENDA is not new legislation, however. The bill has been introduced, in one form or another, in almost every Congress for the past 20 years. Six years ago, gender identity protections were included for the first time. Regrettably, sponsors felt that even with a Democratic majority, ENDA would not take wing with the transgender addition—so they dropped it. The modified bill, which angered and divided the LGBT community, passed the House but not the Senate. President Bush, not surprisingly, threatened to veto the measure.

Two years later, in 2009, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) presented another unsuccessful, transgender-inclusive ENDA bill. He did so again in 2011, with Sen. Merkley introducing it in the Senate. No dice.

This time around, though, there’s someone in the White House who supports the bill’s passage: President Obama, who will sign ENDA into law if it passes through Congress.

Most Americans also support the legislation. According to a November 2011 HRC poll, 77 percent of voters (including a majority of Republicans and seniors) support protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment. Hopefully, that sends a strong message to our legislators to stop wonking and start working to reflect America’s progressive values and protect LGBT rights.

“We call on Congress to seize this historic opportunity and ensure that workers are not unfairly treated based on who they are or who they love,” said Griffin. “Lawmakers can stand with the vast majority of Americans who support this common sense legislation, or they can stand against the tide of history that is moving inexorably toward equality.”

What Do You Think?