The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) [official website] on Wednesday approved a version [S 815] of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As federal law currently stands, employers are only prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, disability and age. In addition, only a minority of states extend employment protections [Huffington Post report] to the LGBT community, meaning that workers can be discriminated against in the area of employment solely for being LGBT. The Obama administration [official website] praised [press release] HELP's approval of the bill:
The President has long supported an inclusive ENDA, which would enshrine into law strong, lasting and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We look forward to the full Senate's consideration of ENDA, and continue to urge the House to move forward on this bill that upholds America's core values of fairness and equality.The bill will now go before the full Senate for a vote before proceeding to the House of Representatives [official website].
Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been a controversial issue worldwide. In January the Virginia Senate approved legislation [JURIST report] that would prohibit the state government from discriminating against its employees based on sexual orientation. HELP held a hearing [JURIST report] in June 2012 regarding ENDA, focusing on discrimination faced by LGBT employees across the country. Earlier in June 2012 JURIST guest columnist Brynne Madway argued [JURIST op-ed] that the LGBT community must shift some of its focus to promoting anti-discrimination laws, noting that only a small number of states have nondiscrimination laws that include gender identity and sexual orientation.