DURHAM, N.C. — U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) announced Saturday that she will become a cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, federal legislation that would prohibit employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Hagan’s decision is being made via statement at the NC Pride Festival and Parade on the east campus of Duke University. Addison Ore, executive director of the Greensboro, N.C.-based Triad Health Project and former Equality North Carolina board member, will read the statement at the event.
“I’m announcing today that I will be signing on as a cosponsor to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA),” reads Hagan’s statement, provided to qnotes by her office. “Discrimination must never be tolerated, and I believe that all Americans deserve an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential. No one – NO ONE – should be turned away from a job or fired because of their sexual orientation OR gender identity.”
Hagan’s staff is crediting a recent constituent meeting with helping to move the senator toward cosponsorship.
“She met last week with some constituents who are members of the transgender community,” Hagan Director of Economic Development Chris Sgro told qnotes. “She wanted to make sure she was a co-sponsor.”
Sgro, who is gay, lives in Greensboro and works out of Hagan’s home office.
Roberta Dunn of Charlotte was one of six constituents at the meeting in Greensboro on Sept. 16. Dunn, who is transgender, was joined by two other transgender North Carolinians and three members of the Greensboro chapter of PFLAG.
Dunn said the meeting lasted about 45 minutes and went well.
“She wanted to hear about our stories and wanted to know if we were accepted by our families,” Dunn said. “She also wanted to know what level of discrimination we’ve felt we had.”
Dunn said she closed the meeting by relating the story of Anne Marie Clukey, a transgender Charlotte city employee who claimed she was unfairly fired due to her gender identity in 2006. In 2009, she filed suit against the city. Charlotte City Attorney Mac McCarley said at the time that the city would not take responsibility in the case. “Transgendered individuals do not have any rights under the federal employment discrimination laws,” he told The Charlotte Observer. The case was later settled in August 2010.
“I feel really pleased and happy,” Dunn said upon learning of Hagan’s decision to sign on to the legislation. “Here in North Carolina we have senators and congresspeople willing to step up and take the rights steps for the LGBT community and say its now time for everyone to have equality. I’m very proud to have her as a senator.”
ENDA has been introduced in nearly every congressional session since 1994. In 2007, it became the center of controversy when a decision was made to debate a version that excluded protections for gender identity.
Hagan will join lead sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and 40 other colleagues in supporting the bill. North Carolina Republican Richard Burr is not a cosponsor. Three North Carolina Democrats — Reps. Brad Miller, David Price and Mel Watt — are cosponsors of the House bill.
Hagan’s full statement follows below:
Friends – I am sorry I could not be here with you today at Pride. Please know I am proud – proud of my friends, family, neighbors, and staff who are part of the LGBT community and proud of you all for being here today. Especially in light of the current politically divisive situation, it is important that all of you are here today to stand for equality.
I want to share some news with you, and this event – focused on equality – is the perfect time to do so. I’m announcing today that I will be signing on as a cosponsor to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).Discrimination must never be tolerated, and I believe that all Americans deserve an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential. No one – NO ONE – should be turned away from a job or fired because of their sexual orientation OR gender identity.
Again, thank you for being here today. Continue to stand strong in the face of discrimination and do not allow anyone to tell you that you are anything other than equal.