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Senate passes Employment Non-Discrimination Act, House up next

California already has tough laws in place to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees from being discriminated against for their sexual orientation or gender expression, as noted by the Orange County Register. However, LGBT employees in a number of other states do not have that protection.

That’s why LGBT supporters are fighting for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). If ENDA becomes law, it would protect LGBT employees across the country from being fired or discriminated against by employers simply for being gay or transgender.

Now ENDA is one step closer to becoming federal law. The proposed legislation passed the U.S. Senate with a large, bipartisan majority of 64 to 32. Ten Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in supporting the bill.

The bill’s author, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, proclaimed the vote “historic.” However, supporters of LGBT rights are not breaking out the champagne yet. ENDA faces a tougher road in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. It may not even be brought up for a vote. House Speaker John Boehner has already stated his opposition to ENDA. He contends that it would result in “frivolous litigation” and harm small businesses.

Although the House passed a bill similar to ENDA back in 2007, that by no means guarantees that it will pass with the current group of legislators. The 2007 bill did not include language about transgender people as the current version does. In addition, that was a different Congress. People of both parties have come and gone since then.

There have been important changes in federal and state law regarding same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights in recent years. The overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the military reflect Americans’ changing attitudes on LGBT rights. It remains to be seen whether there are enough representatives in the House to save ENDA and help insure the workplace protections that LGBT employees in California already have.

Source: 
Business Insider, “‘Historic’ Gay Rights Legislation Has Passed The Senate, But It Might Be Dead In The House” Brett LoGiurato, Nov. 07, 2013

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