After nearly two decades of setbacks, the Employment Non-Discrimination Employment Act (ENDA) survived a key procedural vote in the US Senate on Monday (4 November) and appears assured of passage later this week.
ENDA passed what is known as a cloture vote by a 61-30 margin with all Democrats in support and three Republicans.
The nation’s first lesbian senator, Tammy Baldwin, spoke passionately about ENDA’s merits before the vote.
‘I realize that for some, this is not an easy vote,’ Baldwin told her fellow senators.
‘I understand that for some, they may believe that it’s not good politics,’ she added. ‘But I want to say that I have a deep respect for those who choose to stand on the side of progress for our country this week. So for those that stand up this week and answer the call for courage, I can say with confidence your courage will be respected and remembered when the history of this struggle is written.’
Among the Republicans who voted in favor was Illinois Senator Mark Kirk who spoke Monday on the Senate floor for the first time since suffering a stroke nearly two years ago.
‘I have risen to speak because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute,’ Kirk said. ‘This is not a major change to law. I would say it is already the law in 21 states. I think it’s particularly appropriate for an Illinois Republican to speak on behalf of this measure, in the true tradition of Everett McKinley Dirksen and Abraham Lincoln — men who gave us the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 13th amendment to the Constitution.’
The cloture is the only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill and overcome a filibuster.
ENDA would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees.
It has been introduced in all but one Congress since 1994 and never had enough support for passage by the congress. It was last voted on by the full senate in 1996 when it fell one vote shy of passage.
‘The US Senate has taken a historic step towards ensuring that gay and transgender Americans have the same workplace protections that give all Americans a fair shot to succeed on the job,’ stated Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work, a national organization dedicated to ending workplace discrimination.
Added Almeida: ‘Today’s strong bi-partisan vote total for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act reflects that majorities of Americans from both parties believe nobody should get fired or harassed just because of who they are or whom they love.’