A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill is urging Speaker John Boehner to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote before the end of the 113th session of Congress.
Led by out gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and out bisexual Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the Dec. 3 letter was signed by five Republicans — Reps. Charlie Dent (Pa.), Ileana ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Richard Hanna (N.Y), Jon Rubyan (N.J.) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.) — and an additional three Democrats — Reps. Jared Polis (Colo.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Ron Kind (Wis.).
“An innate sense of fairness compels our country to rise above all forms of workplace discrimination,” the letter states. “ENDA would help us move towards this goal in a manner that balances worker protections with respect for religious employers. Keeping with the notion that employees should be judged on their merits alone, the bill explicitly prohibits preferential treatment or hiring quotas. We are not seeking special privileges – just equal protections.”
ENDA, which would prohibit most employers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, was approved by the Senate 64-32 last month with the support of 10 Republicans. Despite growing bipartisan support, Boehner has indicated he will not allow the bill to be brought to the floor of the House for a vote.
The Ohio Republican, who voted against a version of ENDA that excluded gender identity and that passed the Democratically controlled House in 2007, appears entrenched in his opposition to ENDA on the grounds that “people are already protected in the workplace” and that ENDA would result in frivolous lawsuits.
“Despite strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, Speaker Boehner is refusing to do the right thing for our country,” Maloney said in a statement. “The bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a simple concept supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans – people should be evaluated based on their job performance, not who they love or who they are. It’s a disgrace that Speaker Boehner continues to put his own partisan politics ahead of the American people.”
ENDA supporters, from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the White House, have said they are confident ENDA would pass the House if Boehner would allow a vote. The bill currently has 201 co-sponsors in the House.
In their Tuesday letter to Boehner, the 10 Democrat and Republican members of Congress urged Boehner to “allow the members to vote as they see fit – and demonstrate to the American people that Congress can work in a bipartisan manner on an important issue of fairness.”
During Wednesday remarks to the Center for American Progress, President Barack Obama, who has promised to sign ENDA into law, urged passage of the legislation during a broader speech on economic mobility and raising the minimum wage.
“It’s time to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act so workers can’t be fired for who they are or who they love,” Obama said, citing the bill as one of several ways to empower workers.
[Photo: John Boehner. Credit: Official Photo by Bryant Avondoglio/Office of the House Speaker.]