The New Employment Non-Discrimination Act Hurts Us All

The recent revisions to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) have left us with a bill that no competent attorney representing the LGBT community would ever support.

More than 150 LGBT and other civil rights and community organizations are on record as opposing the new version of ENDA for a number of very compelling reasons as a legal organization our opposition is grounded in the reality of the cases we have seen and stories of clients we have heard over the years.

NCLR (home of EJS board member Kate Kendall), Lambda Legal, the ALCU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and the Transgender Law Project are all unified in our opposition to a bill that will leave many lesbian, gay and bisexual, as well as transgender employees with no redress if fired from their jobs. The revised ENDA marks a major step backwards in the development of laws that protect LGBT employees from discrimination.

By dropping “gender identity” from the bill, this enormously important law, completely betrays the transgender community. Our transgender brothers and sisters have stood with this movement from our earliest beginnings. Transgender individuals loose jobs, are rejected from consideration for employment and are passed over for promotion at greater rates than lesbian, gay or bisexual employees.

Moreover, under the revised ENDA employers can claim-and we know they will-that a firing was not based on sexual orientation, but rather on the employees failure to act feminine or masculine enough. This kind of sex stereotyping is at the root of much of the discrimination against lesbians and gay men. Yet, this kind of discrimination will be perfectly legal under ENDA.

We have been working with our colleague organizations for years to pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that will protect the victims of discrimination we see every day. For years we have also made clear to key leaders in Congress that including gender identity in ENDA is the only way to protect all of us.

The loopholes in the new bill are not only based on the removal of gender identity, the section of ENDA which provided a religious exemption to some employers has been broadened to encompass hospitals and universities run by “faith-based” groups. Under the new version employers can refuse to extend health insurance benefits to couples in domestic partnerships, even if they provide such benefits to married couples.

There is no good reason to support this inferior, flawed and unacceptable version of ENDA. Over a dozen states have passed laws that include gender identity. We cannot and should not accept a federal law which is riddled with loopholes when we can and have been successful in passing laws that truly do protect us all from discrimination on the job. NCLR and our colleagues are committed to fighting for everyone in our community. We are committed to fighting not only the best ENDA we can get, but the ENDA we all deserve.

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