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Congress debates ENDA
Employment Non-Discrimination Act would protect LGBT employees in the workplace

by Rachel Balick

Officer Michael P. Carney, a Massachusetts police officer fired because of his sexual orientation, testified before Congress about the importance of passing ENDA.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor began hearing testimony Sept. 5 in support of H.R. 2015, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA would ban workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. Witnesses included Nancy Kramer, founder and CEO of Resource Interactive, based in Columbus, Ohio; Officer Michael P. Carney, a Massachusetts police officer, and Brooke Waits, a Texas cell phone company employee, both terminated because of anti-gay job discrimination; Professor Lee Badgett of the University of California-Los Angeles Williams Institute; Professor Helen Norton of the University of Colorado School of Law; and Kelly Baker, vice president of Diversity at General Mills. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, also submitted written testimony to the subcommittee.

“It is time for a federal law that would make it illegal to fire a GLBT person just because of who they are,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “ENDA will bring the value of meritocracy to a community that has had to do without it for too long.”

ENDA is sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT). It is currently legal to fire workers on the basis of their sexual orientation in 31 states and on the basis of gender identity and expression in 39 states. Corporate America has already taken significant steps toward this goal, with almost 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies now including sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies.

Carney and Waits, the two fired workers, talked about their personal experiences with anti-gay discrimination in the workplace. Professor Badgett discussed the statistics surrounding workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Professor Norton covered the legal aspects of the legislation, and Baker described how General Mills’ anti-discrimination policy has contributed to its corporate success. Kramer discussed how her small business’s inclusive policies have strengthened its ability to compete.

“Passing ENDA will not create a burden on businesses, large or small,” said Nancy Kramer, founder and CEO of Resource Interactive. “Instead, it will ensure that hardworking GLBT Americans can earn a living, provide for their families, and contribute to the innovation and creativity that makes American business great.”

“One’s sexual orientation or gender identity simply must not bar a person from the opportunity to achieve his or her potential, to support his or her family, or to contribute to his or her community,” said Solmonese. “Civil rights laws have improved job opportunity for millions of Americans, raising standards of living and providing hope of a better future for each successive generation. ENDA will bring the GLBT community, at last, under the protection of federal civil rights law. The time has come to pass it.”

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