WASHINGTON — Two of the last three remaining Democratic U.S. Senators have announced their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida signed on as a supporter Monday, the same day Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced plans to call the bill for a vote prior to Thanksgiving.
And on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas announced he too will support ENDA, leaving only Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as the last remaining Democrat to publicly support ENDA.
The measure now has 57 votes in the Senate, and will presumably gain a 58th when Senator-elect Cory Booker is sworn in Thursday to represent New Jersey, putting ENDA just two votes shy of the 60 needed to pass that chamber without the threat of a filibuster.
The bill has two Republican co-sponsors: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, and Mark Kirk of Illinois.
“It is long past time that Congress come together to protect LGBT people from discrimination and harassment in the workplace, said Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work, a national LGBT organization dedicated to passing ENDA.
“After months of meeting with Republican Senators and their senior staff, we’re confident we have the 60 votes to defeat any attempted filibuster. We’re keeping the pressure up as the vote approaches,” said Almeida, in a statement to LGBTQ Nation.
Article continues belowLGBT advocates are hoping to earn the support of more Republican senators. Although Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have not signed on as ENDA co-sponsors, they voted for the bill in committee in July.
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.