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I was proud to join with my Senate colleagues as an original cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2001. I applaud Senator Kennedy for taking the initiative to reintroduce this important legislation, and I urge my colleagues to support this measure so that the Senate may continue its tradition of protecting fundamental civil rights and opportunity for all Americans.

Congress has passed landmark legislation to guarantee equal opportunity, but it has failed to ensure that these protections are extended to all Americans. I do not believe elected leaders serve our country well if they deny any citizen equal opportunities and equal treatment under the law. Discrimination based on race, gender, ethnic origin, or religion is not just unfair, but illegal as well. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would add sexual orientation to the list.

We all suffer when stereotypes based on fear or ignorance are used to justify discrimination. In our great democracy, a person's success or failure must depend on their qualifications, skills and efforts. But, no one should be denied opportunities because of their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

Let us join together to pass this bill so that our sons and daughters, friends and coworkers have protection against unjust discrimination. We have the opportunity to provide them with these basic civil rights now. I hope my colleagues will seize this opportunity to make our country the just, equal, and fair place our founders intended it to be.