It’s official—after today’s cloture vote, S. 815, the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA),” will soon head to the Senate floor. And with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D–W.Va.) now on board, NCLR has high hopes that this critical legislation to prevent discrimination against LGBT workers could finally pass after going nearly eight years in Congress without a single vote on the bill. The last holdout from the Democratic side, Manchin, brings the total number of yes votes just a few shy of the Senate’s critical threshold. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R–Maine) and Mark Kirk (R–Ill.) are both co-sponsors of the legislation and have been joined by Lisa Murkowski (R–Alaska) and Orrin Hatch (R–Utah), who have stated their public intention to vote for ENDA. At a time when lawmakers have drawn the ire of Americans because they have failed to have bipartisan leadership on just about anything, it is heartening to see members of Congress from both sides of the aisle come together for a common purpose.
ENDA is a necessity because it would be the first law to create a national standard to prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. Right now, one-half of American workers are not protected from this type of discrimination. There are 21 states that don’t provide ENDA-like, state-level workplace protections leaving individuals open to be discriminated against or even fired without just cause. This legislation will directly improve the circumstances for the 6 percent of Hispanics who identify as LGBT and who may be vulnerable simply because of where they live. In fact, three of the ten states with the largest percentages of Hispanic same-sex couples in this country (Texas, Arizona, and Florida) are among those that lack any kind of state-level ENDA protections.
A 2011 poll conducted by the Center for American Progress found that 73 percent of respondents supported workplace discrimination protection for both transgender and gay people in the workplace. A different 2011 survey commissioned by NCLR and the Arcus Foundation also found that when it comes to job discrimination, more than fourth-fifths (83 percent) of Hispanic respondents favor legal protections that extend to LGBT individuals; 64 percent of Hispanic respondents were strongly in favor of legal protections. These figures compare to a marginal group of Latinos (8 percent) who oppose.
Momentum is certainly on the side of ENDA—and with good reason. The landmark legislation gets to the heart of a fundamental American principle: workers should be able to fail or succeed based on their own merits, instead of on their personal background. Those who are undecided should understand that getting behind ENDA is a no-brainer. On a basic level, senators are simply standing up for the dignified, equal treatment of every American worker. And that is something that Americans clearly support.