Employment Protection Bill Reintroduced; Measure Would Protect Gays in the Workplace
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WASHINGTON — A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers today reintroduced a federal bill banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying that every American should have the equal right to be free from bias at their jobs.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, was reintroduced with the leadership of Republican Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut and Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. The Senate bill was reintroduced with the leadership of Republican Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, and Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.
“Today we recommit ourselves to getting this bill passed,” said Chris Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “This legislation would protect everyone, gay or straight, from being fired simply because of their sexual orientation. It is the right thing to do.”
Anders said the bill enjoys widespread popular support, the support of most lawmakers, and the endorsement of President Clinton and Vice President Gore. “Our only obstacle is a handful of fringe politicians who don’t share America’s vision of a free and equal society,” he said.
ENDA would add sexual orientation to the current list of federal employment protections that ban discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability. The bill would prohibit employers with more than 15 employees from using a person’s sexual orientation in decisions such as firing, hiring, promotion or compensation.
Contrary to claims made by opponents, the bill would exempt religious organizations and the military, and would not establish preferential treatment or quotas.
Currently, it is perfectly legal to fire an employee because of their sexual orientation in 39 states. In recent months, Nevada joined New Hampshire, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia in outlawing sexual orientation discrimination.
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