Bipartisan Campaign Launched to Pass Employment Non-Discrimination Act

posted on Wed, Jul 31 2013 10:00 am by Steve Majors, Communications Director

Coalition of diverse groups representing millions of Americans pushing for Senate vote following historic committee markup

WASHINGTON – Today the bipartisan campaign Americans for Workplace Opportunity announced it had formed in order to take advantage of a historic opportunity to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act 19 years after its first introduction – a bill to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  The group plans to spend more than $2 million on the effort and has hired Matt McTighe, a veteran strategist who most recently served as Marriage Project Director for Gill Action after winning the campaign to bring marriage equality to Maine, to serve as the campaign manager.  A majority of states lack laws protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from workplace bias and there is no federal law explicitly barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“No one should be fired for who they are or who they love, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a bipartisan, common-sense way to put those values into federal law,” said McTighe. “Our campaign will mobilize the supermajority of diverse Americans who believe in workplace fairness and push Congress to act on ENDA this year.”

The steering committee of Americans for Workplace Opportunity is a diverse and bipartisan group of organizations composed of: American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Teachers, American Unity Fund, Human Rights Campaign, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and the Service Employees International Union.  Dozens of other organizations that support ENDA will also be involved in the coalition (list atwww.civilrights.org/advocacy/letters/2013/cosponsor-the-employment.html).

ENDA was introduced in the 113th Congress in the House by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and in the Senate by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) as well as Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) on April 25, 2013. ENDA was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on July 10, 2013, by a bipartisan vote of 15-7, including three Republican Senators.

“With the tremendously successful mark-up of ENDA earlier this month, we have strong momentum as we build to reach 60 votes on the Senate floor,” said McTighe.  “We will use all of our resources including grassroots action and strong corporate support to make it clear that the American people want action on this bill.”

The campaign will be engaged in grassroots activities in key states such as Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  The eight steering committee members alone represent a grassroots army of more than 5.6 million members and supporters.

Nine out of ten Americans mistakenly believe federal law already protects LGBT people from workplace discrimination, as the law protects on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability. Seventy-seven percent of all Americans support such legislation including 85 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of Independents, and 70 percent of Republicans; as well as 77 percent of observant Christians, 72 percent of Deep South residents and 69 percent of seniors.  Studies show as many as 43% of LGBT, and 90% of transgender employees say they’ve experienced workplace discrimination according to the Williams Institute and data from NCTE and the Task Force.  Yet only 5% have reported it because there are few protections against anti-LGBT discrimination and they rightly fear repercussion.

More resources on ENDA are available on the campaign’s website at www.workplaceopportunity.org.

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union said: “Full equality for LGBT Americans means not only the freedom to marry, but also ending discrimination in the workplace. It’s an outrage that Americans can still be fired or denied work for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Congress must act this year to correct this once and for all.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers said: "The promise of full human dignity, as Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us fifty years ago, depends on economic equality. Discrimination must never be tolerated. The time to pass ENDA is now."

Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior advisor to the American Unity Fund said: “All Americans, regardless of who they are or where they come from, should have the freedom and opportunity to earn a living without fear of discrimination.   ENDA’s time is now and it recognizes the commonsense principle that in order for American businesses to compete in the 21st century they need talented employees who are judged on their own merits and hard work, and not on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Republicans and Democrats alike understand that it is wrong to fire a qualified worker simply because of who they are.”

HRC President Chad Griffin said: “It is shameful and embarrassing that past Congresses have failed to pass federal employment protections for LGBT Americans even though fair-minded leaders have advocated for its passage for years.  As we experience the bipartisan sea change on LGBT equality, we call on Congress to seize this historic opportunity and ensure that workers are not unfairly treated based on who they are or who they love.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said: “Bias or prejudice should never stand in the way of a person getting or keeping a job. America affirmed this in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, when it guaranteed women, people of color, and religious minorities the right to be hired, paid and promoted according to their merits and not shunned because of who they are. It is time for the federal government to lead the nation once again in protecting the right of every person in the U.S. to work hard, contribute to their communities, and pursue the American Dream with all the zeal they can muster.”

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said: “A job is more than just a job. Having a job means access to health care and ensuring the security of our families. Today, too many trans people are denied that opportunity because of who they are. As Congress debates a bill that most Americans already believe is law, transgender and LGB Americans continue to be denied jobs, promotions and fair wages. Right now, Senators are the only ones who can take action to stop that. The U.S. Senate must act now to make it possible for all Americans to contribute to our economy and our country.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said: “Most Americans believe that everyone should have access to the American Dream, free from discrimination because of who they are or who they love. The good news is that we can do something immediately to stop discrimination in the work place if the Senate acts now to pass ENDA.”

SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry said:  "It's unacceptable that in the year 2013 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers have no federal legal protection against workplace discrimination. The American people overwhelmingly favor laws that protect people from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identify. Lawmakers should heed the public will, pass ENDA and send a clear message that we are not a nation that tolerates different sets of rules based on age, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, ethnicity, race, or religion."

 

Advocacy Letter: CoSponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act 

Dear Member of Congress:

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the undersigned organizations urge you to become a cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). It is time for Congress to act on this crucial civil rights legislation.

Our organizations are dedicated to the principle that every worker should be judged solely on his or her merits. Hardworking Americans should not be kept from supporting their families and making a positive contribution to the economic life of our nation because of characteristics that have no bearing whatsoever on their ability to do a job. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans continue to experience high rates of discrimination in the workplace based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Without a comprehensive federal law like ENDA, these workers lack employment protections in a majority of states. Only 21 states’ laws prohibit discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation, and only 16 also do so based on gender identity, meaning that it is legal to fire members of the LGBT community in 29 and 34 states, respectively. ENDA prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most workplaces. The time has long since come to end this injustice for LGBT Americans and pass ENDA.

America’s corporate leaders support ENDA’s fair-minded approach. Eighty-eight percent of Fortune 500 companies have included sexual orientation protections in their workplace policies and more than fifty-seven percent of them also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Corporate America is leading the way in workplace fairness.

Public support for ENDA is strong. A June 2011 poll from Green berg Quinlan Rosner Research found that 73 percent of likely voters support protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment. It is clear that Americans know that ENDA represents a measured and pragmatic response to unjust prejudice and discrimination. 

We hope you will cosponsor and support this historic legislation. Please contact Rob Randhava, Senior Counsel at The Leadership Conference, at (202) 466-6058 if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

A. Philip Randolph Institute
AFL-CIO
Alliance for Retired Americans
American Association for Affirmative Action
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Association of University Women
American Civil Liberties Union
American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
American Federation of Teachers
American Jewish Committee
American Psychological Association
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Americans for Democratic Acton, Inc.
Amnesty International USA
Anti-Defamation League
Asian American Justice Center
Association of Flight Attendants - CWA
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
B’nai B’rith International
Catholics for Equality
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Center for Women Policy Studies
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
COLAGE: People with a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer Parent
Communications Workers of America
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Disciples Justice Action Network
Equal Justice Society
Equality Matters
Family Equality Council
Freedom to Work Advocacy Fund
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network
GetEQUAL
Human Rights Campaign
Immigration Equality Action Fund
International Foundation for Gender Education
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
Japanese American Citizens League
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Lambda Legal
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
League of United Latin American Citizens
Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center
Legal Momentum
Log Cabin Republicans
Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF)
NAACP
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
National Association of Human Rights Workers
National Association of Social Workers
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Congress of Black Women, Inc.
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Disability Rights Network
National Education Association
National Employment Law Project
National Employment Lawyers Association
National Fair Housing Alliance
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
National Stonewall Democrats
National Workrights Institute
OCA
People For the American Way
PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Pride At Work, AFL-CIO
SEIU
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS)
Southern Poverty Law Center
Transgender Law Center
Unid@s
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America
United Food and Commercial Workers, International (UFCW)
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United Steelworkers
Women Employed
Women of Reform Judaism
Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

 

Find out more about the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. 

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