It took longer than it should have, but today, the United States Senate made history by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which outlaws discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation. The vote was sixty-four to thirty-two, with four senators not voting. As is increasingly the case, Republicans supplied every single one of the votes against.
The White House applauded the vote and released a statement by President Barack Obama urging the House of Representatives to take up the bill immediately.
For more than two centuries, the story of our nation has been the story of more citizens realizing the rights and freedoms that are our birthright as Americans. Today, a bipartisan majority in the Senate took another important step in this journey by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would help end the injustice of our fellow Americans being denied a job or fired just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Just as no one in the United States can lose their job simply because of their race, gender, religion or a disability, no one should ever lose their job simply because of who they are or who they love.
“Today’s victory is a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago. In particular, I thank Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, Senators Merkley and Collins for their leadership, and Senator Kirk for speaking so eloquently in support of this legislation. Now it’s up to the House of Representatives.
This bill has the overwhelming support of the American people, including a majority of Republican voters, as well as many corporations, small businesses and faith communities. They recognize that our country will be more just and more prosperous when we harness the God-given talents of every individual.
One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do. Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it.
I urge the House Republican leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and send it to my desk so I can sign it into law. On that day, our nation will take another historic step toward fulfilling the founding ideals that define us as Americans.
Top House Republicans, including John Boehner, have said they will not bring ENDA to the floor of the House for a vote, even though the bill is solely concerned with LGBT rights in the workplace. Now that the Senate has actually passed ENDA, and with more Republican support than had been anticipated, the pressure on Boehner, Cantor and company to allow a vote will only grow.
As in the Senate, Democrats would need to provide most of the votes for ENDA to pass, which is a major reason why Boehner doesn’t want to bring the bill up. He was embarrassed last month when the House Democratic caucus was united in support of the bill to end the Republican government shutdown and pay America’s bills, while Republicans were divided. No wonder he’s been so dismissive of ENDA.
But if Boehner thinks he can simply ignore ENDA, he’s mistaken. Denying LGBT individuals rights isn’t just terrible policy, it’s increasingly terrible politics.
“This is a historic day on the long road towards equality in the workplace,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “For the first time, the United States Senate has passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect all employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. I have been proud to cosponsor this bill since 1994. Washington State is a national leader in non-discrimination policies. It’s time for the rest of the country to catch up.”
“Today, we are one step closer to ensuring that all Americans are judged on the job that they do, not their sexual orientation,” Cantwell added. “I urge the United States House to move forward and pass this bill.”
Voting Aye: Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Max Baucus and Jon Tester (MT), Mark Begich (AK); Republican Lisa Murkowski (AK)
Voting Nay: Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID)
Once again, Idaho’s Republican duo in the U.S. Senate have cast another embarrassing vote that will reflect poorly on them in the annals of history. But every other Pacific Northwest senator voted to expand freedom for LGBT individuals.
As mentioned, no Democrat voted against S. 815, although Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania did not vote. Besides Lisa Murkowski, Republicans voting for ENDA included Rob Portman of Ohio, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Dean Heller of Nevada.
LGBT advocacy organizations applauded the vote.
“This is a huge historic victory for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families. Most Americans believe that everyone should have access to the American Dream, free from discrimination because of who they are or who they love. We thank the senators who voted to pass ENDA in a bipartisan fashion,” said Rea Carey, ED of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin agreed.
“Each and every American worker should be judged based on the work they do, and never based on who they are. This broad Senate coalition has sent a vital message that civil rights legislation should never be tied up by partisan political games… We firmly believe that if the House of Representatives were freed by John Boehner to vote its conscience, this bill could pass immediately. It’s unconscionable that any one person would stand in the way of this crucial piece of the civil rights puzzle,” Griffin said in a statement released following the vote.