The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions voted 15-7 on Wednesday to pass legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Protections against workplace discrimination have made our country a better, fairer, and more equal place," the committee's chairman, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), said. "It is time to promote workplace fairness by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and I am pleased that the HELP Committee has moved forward to eliminate such discrimination in our society by passing a bipartisan, fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act."
ENDA was first proposed in 1994, but a bill that prohibits workplace discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity has never before been reported to the full Senate for a vote.
The bill would expand federal workplace discrimination laws to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. Federal law currently provides similar workplace protections regarding race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability.
All of the Democratic senators on the committee and three Republicans -- Orrin G. Hatch (UT), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Mark Kirk (IL) -- voted in favor of the bill.
"This bill renews our historical commitment to the advancement of civil rights, and to the American ideal of a meritocracy in which people are judged on their talent, ability, and qualifications—not by the color of their skin, their religion, their gender, their national origin, their age, whether they have a disability, their sexual orientation, or their gender identity," Harkin added.
“As we move forward on bringing ENDA to a vote before the full Senate, I urge my colleagues to do what is right—for LGBT Americans and for our economy—and pass this critical civil rights bill.”
ENDA was introduced in the 113th Congress in the House by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). The bill was introduced to the Senate by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Harkin (D-IA).