Yesterday, the Senate voted to take up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to ban employers from discriminating against LGBTQ workers or job applicants based on their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. being transgender).
This is the first time ever that ENDA, which has struggled in Congress for almost 20 years, includes protections for trans folks. Workers are already protected by federal law from discrimination based on race, gender, religion and age.
The Senate is expected to vote on ENDA this week with bipartisan support. However, it still must work its way through the House of Representatives and faces some Republican opposition. Here are five things to know about this very important bill!
1. Discrimination against gays at work is still legal in 29 stages. Discrimination against trans folks in the workplace is still legal in a whopping 33 states.
2. ENDA has repeatedly failed in Congress over the past few decades. Two Democrats introduced the legislation in 1994 and it was taken up six times throughout the ’90s and ’00s. The New York Times reports that ENDA passed the House of Representatives once in 1996, but only after the protections for transgender workers was removed. Even with those protections removed, the bill died anyway in the Senate.
3. The main opposition to ENDA is Republican lawmakers who claim employers could be at risk for more lawsuits. However, WaPo noted, states with laws similar to ENDA “have not seen a noticeable increase in litigation based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” Nevertheless, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner groused that ENDA will “increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.” Another Republican concern is that religious groups should be exempt from the bill.
4. Americans are hugely supportive of non-discrimination laws. According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll cited by the Washington Post, seven out of 10 Americans support protecting gays and lesbians.
5. Polls have also shown that Americans mistakenly believe these protections are already in place.According to a poll taken this fall by Americans for Workplace Opportunity, two-thirds of registered voters supported ENDA but eight out of 10 thought they were already in place.