Senator Jeff Merkley Introduces the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Kristin Teigen

Back in the primaries for the US Senate race, I was an early supporter of Steve Novick, but after Jeff Merkley won the primary, I swallowed my pride, wrote the check, and trundled down to the Merkley office to volunteer as much as I could.

Today, Jeff Merkley more than earned the support that I gave him. He was one of four Senators, including Susan Collins, Olympia Snow and Ted Kennedy, who introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) into the United States Senate. He is continuing his commitment to workplace protections, as he pushed successfully for a state version of ENDA, the Oregon Equality Act, when he was Speaker of the House. Here is part of Merkley’s statement today:

“There is no place in the workplace for employment discrimination,” said Senator Merkley. “No worker in America should be fired or denied a job based on who they are. Discrimination is wrong, period. I’m proud to join Senator Kennedy, who is a civil rights legend, and Senators Collins and Snowe, both champions for equality, in taking this next step in our ongoing effort to create a more perfect union and guarantee every American, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, the right to earn a living.”

For the first time in over a decade, this law has a great chance of passing, and President Obama has promised to sign it. It’s hard to believe, in some ways, that ENDA doesn’t already exist. It aims to ensure that a person cannot be fired simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Without it, citizens in most states can be fired, harassed and denied advancement not because of their job performance but because their boss or co-workers don’t like who they love and who they are.

This bill is a long time coming. It has been introduced, in one form or another, since 1994. Some versions of it did not include protections for gender identity – those that did lost that protection as part of a process of last minute but futile compromise. This latest version, thankfully, includes it and it looks like this protection won’t be whittled away.

While some states, local jurisdictions and companies already provide protections for GLBT workers, a federal law offers far more. It not only extends the protections to all, regardless of where you live or work, but also offers more power to actually punish those who discriminate. Federal courts, unlike those at lower levels, have more penalty power and resources to put some serious teeth into the intent and meaning of the law.

So, thank you, Senator Merkley, for making me proud, and sign me up for the re-election campaign!

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    A good idea, and something that many of us may have assumed was already part of the law of the land. But given the current climate in the bible belt, this bill has about the same chance of passing as I do of being elected Pope.

  • alec clayton (unverified)

    Is there any way to find out who the co-sponsors are? I would like to send out a message to our Olympia, Washington PFLAG list asking them to contact our senators. If Senators Murray and Cantwell have already expressed their support, I would like to ask our members to thank them and not just say we hope they support it.

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    Here are the co-sponsors, from Merkley's full press release today, with Cantwell and Murray as supporters...

    Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, Senators Daniel Akaka (HI), Jeff Bingaman (NM), Barbara Boxer (CA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Roland Burris (IL), Maria Cantwell (WA), Ben Cardin (MD), Bob Casey (PA), Chris Dodd (CT), Russ Feingold (WI), Diane Feinstein (CA), Al Franken (MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Tom Harkin (IA), Daniel Inouye (HI), John Kerry (MA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Patrick Leahy (VT), Carl Levin (MI), Joe Lieberman (CT), Robert Menendez (NJ), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Patty Murray (WA), Jack Reed (RI), Bernie Sanders (VT), Chuck Schumer (NY), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Arlen Specter (PA), Mark Udall (CO), Tom Udall (NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Ron Wyden (OR)

    And Greg, current polling shows that between 62% and 80% of the public favors ENDA, so you may actually get that new job with a view of the Mediterranean!

  • Laura Calvo (unverified)


    Here's a spreadsheet of Senators and heres a listing of House Reps

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    awesome to have a list of Dems supporting a good piece of legislation and seeing Sen Franken there. about damn time, and i hope for a good, long time.

  • M.M. (unverified)

    "It’s hard to believe, in some ways, that ENDA doesn’t already exist."

    <h2>ENDA does exist and was passed already. This is an inclusive ENDA. The previous ENDA protected only on the basis of sexual orientation, NOT gender identity.</h2>

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