The Senate has scheduled a hearing for
the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), On Top Magazine
The Committee on Health, Education,
Labor & Pensions' November 5 hearing will be the bill's first
outing since its August introduction by two Democratic Senators –
the late Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and Oregon Senator Jeff
Merkley – and two Republican Senators – Olympia Snowe and Susan
Collins of Maine.
The measure would ban employment
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
“This is a very exciting step forward
in our efforts to pass this important legislation and guarantee every
American, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,
the right to earn a living,” Julie Edwards, communications director
for Senator Jeff Merkley, said
in an email.
Thirty four co-sponsors signed on in
August. Since then the bill has attracted the support of seven more
Massachusetts Representative Barney
Frank introduced the House version of ENDA in July.
Both versions of the bill have been
reworked, adding back transgender protections removed from last
year's bill. Gay rights groups warned politicos last year that they
would not support a gay-only protections bill.
“I am encouraged,” Frank told gay
weekly the Washington Blade about the inclusion of transgender
protections in this year's House bill. “I think the transgender
community and others have been doing this in a very good way. This
time they have been doing the lobbying.”
Despite the bill being watered down, it
fizzed in the Senate after the House approved the measure.
Social conservatives who argue the
legislation impinges on religious freedoms have vociferously opposed
“This bill will mean that employers
will be forced to make employment decisions against their religious
beliefs,” Ashley Home, federal policy analyst for the
Christian-based group Focus on the Family, told Citizen Link.
The hearing comes on the heels of
President Obama signing into law the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd
Jr. Hate Prevention Act, the nation's first major pro-gay law.