Today the Senate votes on a historic bill that would strengthen the civil rights of the LGBTQ community. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. On Monday, the Senate voted 61-30 in favor of the bill during a procedural vote, showing a clear indication that ENDA has the support to be passed on to the House of Representatives.
“It is well past time that we, as elected representatives, ensure that our laws protect against discrimination in the workplace for all individuals, that we ensure those some protections for those within the LGBT community,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who described the diversity in her state.
From the Huffington Post:
“Everyone, gay or straight, should have the right to work hard and earn a living,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the lead sponsor of ENDA. “Unfortunately, in 29 states you can still be fired for who you are and who you love. That is just plain wrong. This week, the Senate has an opportunity to right this wrong and stand for fairness and equality for all Americans. I urge my colleagues to put in place these commonsense protections for our LGBT friends and families.”
This move echoes a cultural shift in the attitudes toward the LGBTQ community and comes as more States continue to pass legislations that recognize same-sex marriage. The attitude shift of Congress is being shaped by a younger generation that is increasingly for LGBTQ rights and comes on the heels of a historic Presidential race where President Obama was reelected in large part because of the LGBTQ Vote. This support is now becoming more bi-partisan by the day.
The measure is coming up for a vote because of a recent wave of momentum in support. After the bill gained the support of all 53 Democrats, two independents and two Republican co-sponsors: Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine.
Yet, there are concerns that the Republican led House will not even bring the bill to a vote, a move that would reinforce nation’s frustration with its dysfunctional government, and providing more evidence that the extreme right in the Republican Party is completely out of touch with the pulse of the nation.
From ABC News:
The progress was tempered by the reality that the Republican-led House, where conservatives have a firm grip on the agenda, is unlikely to even vote on the bill. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, maintains his longstanding opposition to the measure, arguing that it is unnecessary and certain to create costly, frivolous lawsuits for businesses. Outside conservative groups have cast the bill as anti-family.
It is disturbing to hear an elected official claim that cost is more important than ensuring the rights of a citizen, but I suppose not surprising. Either way it is a weak and transparent argument. Passage of ENDA will not guarantee an end to discrimination just as the Civil Rights Movement has not ended racial discrimination, but the Senate’s firm stance has brought this issue to the national forefront where it belongs.Hopefully it will pave the way for a future where the America’s LGBTQ community can be embraced as a shining example of freedom and Democracy for the world to follow.
Written By Matthew Cohen, MSW