Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA)

I read some great news this afternoon, the Senate in a 64 to 32 vote, approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA). Today’s vote is a semi-victory for the LGBT community (the bill still needs to be voted on and approved by the Republican-led House of Representatives – which will most likely not happen), whom have seen an increase in the protections afforded to their civil rights under the law. From the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2010 which allowed gays and lesbians to openly serve in our military, to this years Supreme Court decision to repeal Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which was deemed unconstitutional and allowed for the expansion of employer benefits to same-sex spouses.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 is meant to “provide an explicit, comprehensive Federal prohibition against employment discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity.” The bill makes it unlawful for employers:

“(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify the employees or applicants for employment of the employer in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment or otherwise adversely affect the status of the individual as an employee, because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

There are also provisions for employment agencies, labor organizations, training programs and associations. You can get a concise listing of the bill here. ENDA applies to all employers who fall under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, religious organizations under section 6 of the bill are exempt.

Congress has been trying for the past 19 years to enact some version of this bill into law. However, the bill has faced Republican opposition over the years. Currently House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said that he believes the legislation would “increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs” and will not bring up the bill for consideration.

However, according to Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post: “a recent Government Accountability Office report found that states with laws similar to ENDA have not seen a noticeable increase in litigation based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Unfortunately, as beneficial as this bill would be to over 8 million gay and lesbian employees. The reality of our current political situation is that the bill will most likely not get past the House of Representatives. I would urge most of my readers to take some action and reach out to their local congressional representative in support of the bill, yet there are far too many bureaucratic obstacles to get through in the House. So the best thing to do currently is get the word out, and get ready to support a candidate that matches your political affinities come next year’s mid-term elections.

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