WASHINGTON — The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was reintroduced in both chambers of Congress on Thursday. The measure would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees.
The U.S. House version was reintroduced in by Colorado Democrat Jared Polis and Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Polis, the senior openly gay member of the House, took the lead on the legislation after the retirement last year of former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank.
In the U.S. Senate, the legislation was reintroduced by Oregon Democrat, Senator Jeff Merkley, and has over 40 co-sponsors, including two Republicans — Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Susan Collins of Maine.
Sen. Tom Harkin, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has vowed to move the bill forward this year, marking the first time a fully LGBT-inclusive ENDA will see a committee vote in Congress.
Most observers expect that it will eventually come to the floor for a vote.
In a release Thursday morning, four leading equal rights advocacy groups noted, “Despite the remarkable progress — cultural, political, and legal — that LGBT people have made in recent years, there are currently 34 states that lack workplace non-discrimination laws that are fully inclusive of LGBT people. This patchwork of protection continues to leave LGBT people vulnerable to workplace discrimination. “
Article continues below“We hear the stories every day from our clients and the tens of thousands of LGBT people who contact LGBT legal organizations like ours every year. In a country that values fairness and equal treatment under the law, we believe the current situation is unacceptable,” according to the joint statement from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center.
Though ENDA is substantively the same as it has been in years past, there are a few minor changes to the language of ENDA this year, which clarify and improve the text of the legislation, such as removing a reference to the Defense of Marriage Act.
The constitutionality of DOMA is currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.