Employment non-discrimination bill approved

The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) garnered bipartisan support recently when the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved for the first time a bill to ban employment-related discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Three Republicans  – Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) – joined their Democratic colleagues to approve the legislation by a 15-7 vote on July 10.  The bill, S. 815, is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and 53 cosponsors.

The ABA adopted policy in 1989 urging local and federal lawmakers to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and in 2006 the ABA approved policy specifically urging enactment of legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of real or perceived gender identity in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations.

In correspondence during the 112th Congress, then ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III explained that studies indicate that transgender and other gender nonconforming people face severe discrimination in all public aspects of their lives, particularly employment. “Whenever any of our basic civil rights are diminished or marginalized unjustifiably on the basis of personal characteristics,” he wrote, “all of our basic civil rights are diminished and jeopardized.”

The ABA, he said, has an “underlying commitment to the ideal of equal opportunity – that no person should be denied basic rights because of membership in a minority group.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated he hopes  to bring S. 815 to the floor for a vote in the near future.

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