Is this the year that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will finally get passed? It just got a big boost from the Senate.
ENDA would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Senate voted 61-30 to allow the bill to come to the Senate floor for debate and eventual vote. Seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the measure.
Federal law protects workers on the basis on race, religion, national origin and a number of other factors. But sexual orientation and gender identity have not been included under that umbrella of protection.
ENDA would change that. Observers say the bill will likely pass the Senate, and has a shot to pass in the House if Democrats agree to amendments that would loosen strictures on religious organizations. However, it was reported that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) opposes the bill.
In the works since ’74
ENDA’s been a long time coming. Here are some highlights of the timeline laid out by CNN.com:
- 1974: Spurred at least in part by an incident in 1969 involving a clash between gays and police at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York Reps. Bella Abzug and Ed Koch introduced broad anti-discrimination legislation in the House of Representatives that covered discriminatory practices in housing, the workplace and public institutions. It went nowhere.
- 1994: The first version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act was introduced in the House and the Senate. While it made discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation illegal, it didn’t include protections for transgender workers.
- 1996: The Senate took up the legislation. It failed, barely.
- 2007: The next time ENDA would receive a vote was 11 years later. This time, the House passed it. The measure was placed on the Senate calendar but never made it to a vote.
- 2008: Barack Obama was elected to the presidency after campaigning for workplace protections for the LGBT community. Advocates had high hopes.
- October 2009: Congress passed the first federal legislation to offer protections to transgender people. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act updated the federal hate crimes law to include crimes against “actual or perceived” gay and transgender people.
- December 2010: Just over a month after the midterm elections, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a President Bill Clinton-era initiative that prohibited openly lesbian and gay people from serving in the military.
- 2011: The Obama administration announced it would stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA made it illegal for states to recognize same-sex marriages. Opponents of the President’s decision challenged the administration, leading to the Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor.
- May 2012: President Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage. While he is the first president to do so, he did indicate that he wouldn’t push for federal legislation and said it’s a matter best left to the states.
- February 2013: Congress passed an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act that included protections for gay and transgender people.
- June 2013: The Supreme Court struck down DOMA, calling it unconstitutional.
- July 2013: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee voted ENDA out of committee, with the support of three Republicans. Sens. Kirk, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Orrin Hatch of Utah all voted for it, improving the legislation’s chances.
- October 2013: All 53 Democrats and both Democratic-leaning independents confirmed their support for the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would bring the measure up for a vote.
- November 4, 2013: The Senate passed a key procedural vote that enables the upper chamber to take up the legislation. It’s the first time the Senate has taken it up since 1996 and the first time it has included protections for transgender people.