By Karen Ocamb
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, held a hearing Tuesday, June 12, on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. ENDA would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in workplaces with 15 or more employees.
Even though ENDA is not expected to pass out of this Congress, given the anti-gay conservative makeup of the House, the hearing is a very big deal for several reasons. One key reason, revealed during the LGBT Caucus at Netroots Nation this weekend, is that even 8 out of 10 progressive Democrats don’t know what ENDA is, indicating how much work remains to be done:
The (unscientific) poll taken by this site BackStonewall.com randomly asked this question to a random sampling of attendees over the four days of Netroots Nation and a mind-boggling 80 percent of them did not know what ENDA (The Employment Non-Discrimination Act) was. Even more shocking was the fact that many were under the belief that LGBT employment discrimination protections were already in place under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and all were unaware and disgusted when they learned that ENDA has been stalled in Congress for over 20 years and LGBT Americans can still be fired for simply being who they are.
However, the tone of the hearing and the pro-ENDA remarks by a number of US Senators also indicate that incredible progress has been made at the political leadership level over the past several years. For instance: Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.: “All Americans deserve to feel secure in the workplace. Discrimination. based on sexual orientation and gender identity should not be tolerated.” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. ”We’re within reach (of passing ENDA)….This discrimination is wrong—it is morally wrong—and we must end it.” Sen. Harkin concludes
#ENDA hearing: “This is an issue we have to get over as a country. This has no place in our society.” (Please check out the Transgender Law Center’s Twitter feed for a good quick 140-character overview of the hearing.)
Read more at LGBT POV.