Manchin, last Democratic holdout in Senate, announces support for ENDA

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

WASHINGTON — All Democrats in the Senate are backing a bill that would prohibit employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — the last Democratic holdout — is now supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a spokesman said Wednesday.

Manchin joins Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Bill Nelson of Florida, who indicated this week that they back the legislation that is critical to gay rights advocates.

Current federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin, but it doesn’t stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire a worker solely because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

The bill would bar employers with 15 or more workers from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions, including hiring, firing, compensation or promotion.

With a vote possible as early as next week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., needs 60 votes to overcome a likely Republican-led filibuster. Reid has the support of all 52 Democrats, two independents and is expected to get the vote of Democrat Cory Booker, who will be sworn in as New Jersey senator on Thursday.

Four Republican senators also support the measure – Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – putting Reid within one vote of 60.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have already approved laws banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 17 of those also prohibit employers from discriminating based on gender identity.

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About 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies have already adopted non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, according to the Human Rights Campaign. About 57 percent of those companies include gender identity.

The legislation was first introduced two decades ago in 1994 and had its first vote in 1996, the same year the Defense of Marriage Act was signed by former President Bill Clinton.

This would be the first time ENDA has been voted on in the U.S. Senate in 17 years and the first time a transgender-inclusive ENDA has received a vote.

A spokesperson for Reid told LGBTQ Nation on Monday that the exact scheduling of a floor vote has yet to be determined.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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