Senate Panel hears ENDA Testimony

Originally Posted by the Washington Blade

Senate panel hears ENDA testimony

GOP senators, trans witnesses absent from hearing

By CHRIS JOHNSON, Washington Blade

Nov 5 2009, 7:17 PM

"A Senate hearing Thursday for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

alternated between tales of discrimination and wrangling over the

bill's exemptions for religious groups.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee heard

testimony on the bill that would bar job bias throughout the country

against LGBT people in the workforce. It was the first Senate hearing

on ENDA since 2002.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the sponsor of the legislation in the

Senate, said during the hearing that ENDA is necessary to ensure equal

opportunity for all Americans in the workforce.

"We are on the path to one of those struggles for human progress, for

a struggle to have full equality under the law — full equal

opportunity," he said. "There can never be equal opportunity as long

we do not have equal opportunity for employment. Discrimination is

simply wrong."

The bill, which has 42 co-sponsors, would bar discrimination in the

public workforce based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Exempt from the bill are religious institutions, the U.S. armed

forces, veterans' groups and businesses with fewer than 15 employees.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the committee, said ENDA was

important to ensure "equal treatment for all," and noted the success

many states and businesses have seen in adopting similar practices.

Twelve states have enacted laws barring discrimination in the

workforce based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and another

nine states bar discrimination on sexual orientation alone. Among

businesses, 87 percent of Fortune 500 companies have non-

discrimination policies for gays, while 41 percent have such policies

for gays and transgender people."


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