By a 64-32 vote earlier today, the United States Senate passed a version of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, a measure that would amend Title VII to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics and provide employment protections for LGBT employees not previously available under federal law. As we discussed last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to push this bill for a vote prior to Thanksgiving and he delivered on this pledge more than a full fortnight early.
While the Senate’s passage of ENDA is a monumental development, it appears this bill faces an uphill battle to even garner a floor vote in the House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner remains a staunch opponent. However, it is clear that the nearly universal opposition for this law from GOP legislators is quickly eroding. Not only was ENDA introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan coalition of supporters, John McCain and Orrin Hatch — two Republicans who voted against similar legislation in 1996 – voted in favor of ENDA this time.
Even if this Congress does not pass ENDA, the tide (both on Capitol Hill and outside the Beltway) is clearly shifting in favor of expanding legal rights and protections to LGBT workers. We will continue to monitor this bill in the coming weeks and months and will report any developments.