WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. Senate committee gave approval Wednesday to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill now heads to the full Senate.
The legislation passed 15-7 in an initial vote in the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. North Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R) and Kay Hagan (D) both serve on the committee. The committee’s 12 Democrats, including Hagan, voted for the bill, as did Republican U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Orrin Hatch (Utah). Kirk was a co-sponsor of the bill.
Burr said in a statement on Tuesday that he would not support ENDA.
“It is my hope that our society can be tolerant of different people and ideas,” Burr said. “That said, whenever we consider new legislation we must always consider the interplay of new laws with existing rights. I am concerned that the ENDA bill would go beyond our existing laws protecting individuals’ employment rights.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who is a week-long tour through the South, gathered on Tuesday in Charlotte with North Carolina advocates, business owners and elected officials to push for Burr’s support.
Tico Almeida, president of Freedom To Work, an organization committed to advancing LGBT workplace equality, said on Wednesday that the committee vote signaled increased momentum on LGBT issues.
“Today’s vote is a monumental step forward for gay civil rights in this country and an important moment in the fight to end workforce discrimination. We applaud the leadership of Senator Harkin, Senator Kirk, Senator Merkley, Senator Murkowski, Senator Hatch and many others who made today’s vote possible,” Almeida said in a statement. “Taken with the Supreme Court rulings last month, today’s vote shows that the tide has turned and the movement for full LGBT rights will not go backwards. Those who continue to stand in the way of the march towards the freedom to work, like the Republicans who voted against the legislation today, not only find themselves on the wrong side of history they find themselves on the wrong side of the founding principles of our country – justice and freedom. We will continue this fight to ensure this vital legislation passes the full Senate, the House and is signed into law by the President. Because it is far past time that all people in this country have the freedom to work.”