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
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."