Bills In Congress Aim To Combat Anti-Gay Bias

With several states legalizing same-sex marriages and President Obama announcing that "don't ask, don't tell" will become a thing of the past, the gay-rights agenda has moved to the political forefront. Following the Supreme Court's recent decision in Doe v. Reed, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens have become more hopeful that some of these proposed bills will lead to lasting civil rights protections.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 has emerged as a reincarnation of old legislation. Officially titled House Bill 3017, the House version of ENDA, proposed by Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, prohibits employment discrimination or gender identity. Modeled after historic civil rights laws, various adaptations of this bill have bounced around the halls of Congress since 1994; however, the present version now has 202 sponsors in the House and nearly 50 sponsors for the Senate's version, Senate Bill 1584.

While ENDA is geared toward working adults, the Student Non-Discrimination Act, House Bill 4530, is intended to protect LGBT public school students. This act seeks to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and includes provisions for bullying, harassment and violence.

LGBT students and workers often struggle with general discrimination in many aspects of their daily lives. Another bill is being considered that deals with banking-related discrimination. This is the Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act , or Senate Bill 4376. Historically, LGBT consumers have faced discrimination when attempting to get mortgages or other forms of credit. FDCA, proposed by New York House Representative Steve Israel, provides extra help for LGBT consumers in these tough economic times.

Congress is also considering two bills that would specifically affect LGBT families. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act , or House Bill 3827, would bar discrimination in adoption or foster care on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. The Uniting American Families Act, or House Bill 4376, would eliminate immigration discrimination against permanent partners in bi-national LGBT couples.

With these various bills vying for sponsorship and support, many gay-rights advocacy groups have come forward in support of the proposed laws. The National Center of Transgender Equality, among other groups, actively supports ENDA and promotes the legislation on its website. While some remain opposed to LGBT-oriented policies and bills, time will tell if American voters are truly ready to accept these changes.