Back in May 2012, we predicted that President Obama’s personal “evolution” on the issue of gay rights might resurrect the perennial Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Call it a hunch. This morning, that hunch became reality as the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved ENDA by a 15-7 vote.
The bill (here) would prohibit employers from firing or refusing to hire workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and would extend workplace protections that already apply to disability, race, national origin, gender, religion, and age. Religious organizations and businesses with less than 15 employees would not be covered by the bill.
Many business groups that generally oppose new workplace laws have been uncharacteristically silent about ENDA, suggesting that opposition likely will come from social conservatives, rather than from the business sector. Maybe that’s because most Fortune 500 companies already have policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and more than half also ban discrimination based on gender identity.
The bill will now move on to the full Senate. Even if it passes there, it’s still a huge longshot that the House will support the measure, so don’t expect ENDA to become law anytime soon. In the meantime, though, expect that both supporters and detractors will be rather vocal in pressing their case.