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Senate Voted To End LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination, House Republicans Not In Agreement

In this Aug. 23, 2012, photo, Stephanie Perkins, deputy director of PROMO, a statewide gay advocacy group, talks about a pending proposal in Springfield, Mo. to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

CREDIT: AP/Charlie Riedel.

On Thursday November 5, the Senate passed the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), 64 to 32, sending the bill to the House of Representatives.

Recent opinion polls suggest that nearly 70 percent of Americans support workplace protections for LGBTQ employees. But the bad news is, both Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) have implied there will not be a House vote.

Boehner Press Secretary, Michael Steel said, “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

On the contrary, ENDA aims to do just the oppositeensure employment opportunity and protections to millions of LGBTQ Americans who are habitually and (thus far) legally discriminated against. Currently, only 17 states prohibit discrimination based on sexuality and gender expression. 

“The two most discriminated groups in employment are youth and seniors,” Maura Keisling, Executive Director at the National Center for Trans Equality (NCTE) said.

And ENDA is important for LGBTQ youth because youth also hold some of the highest rates of unemployment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the youth unemployment rate was 16.3 percent in July 2013 compared to the national average of 7.4 percent. ENDA will at least help young workers with the discrimination faced for sexual orientation and gender expression.

President Obama released a statement urging the House to pass ENDA.

“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,” Obama said. “Now is the time to end this kind of discrimination in the workplace, not enable it.”

While versions of ENDA have been circulating Congress since 1994, the current version of ENDA marks the first time the Senate has taken up workplace protections for transgender Americans.

Transgender employees face some of the most vicious employment discrimination, with as many as 90 percent reporting being harassed, discriminated against, or having to conceal gender identity to avoid such hardships.

“With ENDA employers and employees will know what their rights are. Employer will be able to do the correct thing and follow the law, and employees will be able to stand up for their rights,” Keisling said.“If an employer says I’m going to fire you because you’re gay or bi or trans or whatever, we can say no that’s illegal and here’s the proof. And that can save a lot of jobs.”

Anya Callahan is a reporter for Generation Progress. Follow her on Twitter @LezAnya.

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