Is A Senate Hearing in the Cards for ENDA?

There’s a new push for Congress give a bill that would make it illegal, on the federal level, to fire or discriminate against someone based upon their gender identity or sexual orientation a hearing.

LGBT groups are pressing for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to get the bill through a Senate committee and onto the Senate floor for full debate.

According to The Washington Blade,”while the Republican takeover of the House in 2010 makes any movement of the legislation in that chamber unlikely, Democrats remain in control of the Senate and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a longtime supporter of ENDA, remains chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill,” reports the paper.

“In addition to holding a hearing on ENDA, the committee could easily report out the legislation to the Senate floor. Besides Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the chief sponsor of the bill, all 12 Democrats on the panel are co-sponsors as well as Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who’s one of three Republicans in the Senate who’ve signed on in support of the bill along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine),” reports the site.

If the legislation is taken up, it would mark the first time in U.S. history members of the transgender community would be able to testify before a Senate committee regarding the discrimination and harassment many face on a day-to-day basis.

Despite the absence of any likelihood that the bill could become law, advocates say such hearings are important because it allows personal stories to be heard by lawmakers and it also puts the issue in the national media spotlight.

Many groups, meanwhile, are asking the President to bypass Congress altogether and simply sign an ENDA Executive Order.

Dr. Jillian T. Weiss writes,”the proposed ENDA Executive Order has already moved forward though a number of the bureaucratic steps necessary to vet it, including clearance by the Labor and Justice Departments. It is ready to go, and it would help qualified transgender employees across the country who, according to the recent Task Force/NCTE study, face double the rate of unemployment of the general population, 26% of whom were fired due to gender identity bias, 44% were underemployed, and 50% of whom faced harassment and abuse on the job.”

If the idea of ENDA sounds familiar, it might be because state lawmakers have refused for the past six years to give a similar bill here in Idaho a hearing.

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