CIVIL RIGHTS/LGBT: Senator Murray’s Statement on Key Vote to Advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Jul 10 2013

Legislation provides new protections from employee discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity

(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee issued the following statement after the committee voted to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA).  The historic, bipartisan legislation would provide new employee protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Current federal law bans employment discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability. 

“Despite the incredible gains we’ve made toward full equality for LGBT Americans, many businesses throughout the United States can still legally discriminate against an employee or an applicant simply because of who they love or how they identify themselves. That is simply wrong, and it has to change.

“I’m proud that Washington state is a leader in providing employment protections for LGBT Americans, and today’s vote was an important step toward extending these protections to every LGBT American.

“Discrimination of any kind, against anyone, is unacceptable, so I’m incredibly proud to have voted for this historic legislation today.  I applaud Senator Harkin for making equality in the workplace a priority for this committee, and I will continue working with my colleagues to pass this important bill through the full Senate.”

Different iterations of ENDA have been introduced in nearly every Congress since 1994, but no version has ever been signed into law.  Today’s crucial committee passage marks the legislation’s most significant progress in the Senate in nearly two decades.  The bill currently has 53 co-sponsors, including two Republicans.

Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia, including Washington, have enacted statutes that prohibit discrimination based sexual orientation or gender identity. Another five states bar job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity.  While these states provide important protections, employers in a majority of states can still fire, refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.