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ENDA: As Senate Prepares to Pass Monumental Anti-Discrimination Law, Murray Discusses WA State Law’s Success

Nov 06 2013

Murray was an original co-sponsor of ENDA when it was first introduced in 1994, has fought for its passage ever since



(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray gave a speech on the Senate floor about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which outlaws workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Senator Murray was an original cosponsor of ENDA when it was first introduced in 1994, and has continued to work for its passage ever since.  In 2006, the Washington state legislature enacted a bill called the Washington Law Against Discrimination.  This law added protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to the state civil rights law, and was a giant step forward for the civil rights of Washington workers.  Senator Murray talked about how this law supports a thriving LGBT community in Washington, and how passage of ENDA will benefit the country. 

“In 2006, Washington state passed one of our country’s strongest anti-discrimination laws – one that serves as a model for the federal legislation we’re considering today,” Senator Murray said. “In 2007 and 2008, we passed additional legislation to further protect the rights of same-sex couples.  And one year ago today, our state voted proudly to uphold landmark marriage equality legislation…I rise today to simply ask my colleagues who don’t yet support this legislation to take a look at my home state of Washington, because in places like Seattle and Spokane, we’re proving every day that protecting the rights of our LGBT friends and neighbors isn’t just the right thing to do--it works– and it makes our country stronger.”

“Denying Americans their rights just doesn’t make sense,” Senator Murray said. “We know that a person’s race, religion, and gender has nothing to do with their ability in the workplace, and we know that sexual orientation and gender identity don’t, either…. I’m proud that my state does protect those rights, but we cannot stop working until the same is true in all 50 states.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared:

“Madam President, there’s no shortage of reasons why I’m proud to represent my home state of Washington…

“Our state is an economic leader.  We’re home to the American aerospace industry, a thriving agriculture sector, and dozens of companies creating new products and new jobs with cutting edge-technology.

“We’re a leader in protecting the environment and educating our children…

“And Washington state is the place that tens of thousands of service members and veterans call home.

“But Madam President, I’m here today because I’d like to talk about another way Washington state has set an example for the entire country…and that is our state’s proud history of protecting the rights of all our citizens – including members of the LGBT community.

“Madam President, in 2006, Washington state passed one of our country’s strongest anti-discrimination laws – one that serves as a model for the federal legislation we’re considering today.

“In 2007 and 2008, we passed additional legislation to further protect the rights of same-sex couples.  And one year ago today, our state voted proudly to uphold landmark marriage equality legislation.

“And what we have to show for it is really two things: First – we have a thriving LGBT community made up of individuals and families who can feel safe, respected, and valued like anyone else. And second – we have a growing economy that’s anchored by businesses who respect their employees and judge them by the only thing that matters – their hard work and ability.

“So Madam President, I rise today to simply ask my colleagues who don’t yet support this legislation to take a look at my home state of Washington…because in places like Seattle and Spokane, we’re proving every day that protecting the rights of our LGBT friends and neighbors isn’t just the right thing to do: It works – and it makes our country stronger.

“Madam President – some of my colleagues have said that extending employment protections for our LGBT friends and family members is too hard…

“Some of them have said it will create problems for businesses and communities…well, I’d invite them to come to Seattle and ask businesses there whether it’s been problematic to respect their employees rights.

“I’d invite them to visit Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstroms, or Microsoft…just a few of our state’s successful businesses who have taken the lead in protecting the rights of their LGBT employees.

“Because, Madam President, we know in Washington state that it’s just wrong to discriminate against people.

“We know that a person’s race, religion, and gender has nothing to do with their ability in the workplace, and we know that sexual orientation and gender identity don’t, either.

“Madam President – most all of our constituents – 4 out of 5 Americans – falsely believe LGBT Americans already have the protections included in this bill, and most people believe that because denying Americans their rights just doesn’t make sense.

“It doesn’t make sense that some men and women can be fired from their job just because of who they are or who they love.

“We know that’s not fair in Washington, but people in every state, from Virginia and Mississippi to Arizona and Idaho know the same. 

“And Madam President, many of my colleagues have cited these statistics but they are worth repeating: Two thirds of all Americans, including a majority of Republicans, believe in protecting LGBT citizens from employment discrimination. But despite that, more than half of our country lives in states where their rights aren’t protected.

“Now, I’m proud that my state does protect those rights, but we cannot stop working until the same is true in all 50 states. 

“So Madam President – for any of my colleagues who still aren’t convinced that LGBT Americans deserve the same rights as all of us – my invitation to visit Washington state still stands.

“Because it’s not enough that my constituents are free from discrimination – their constituents deserve the same.

“I yield the floor.”