Discrimination is not a partisan issue. As leaders of the National Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans—the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans in the nation’s two major political parties—we share a commitment to full equality for all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. While we disagree on matters of elections and political leadership, we agree that now is the time for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to become the law of the land for all Americans.
Employers in 29 states can legally discriminate based on the actual or perceived sexual orientation of employees and job applicants, and in 38 states they can do so based on gender identity and expression. As a result, hardworking and qualified LGBT Americans are fired, harassed, and denied promotions and job opportunities.
Congress has the opportunity to finally take action on ENDA, starting with the United States House of Representatives. For LGBT Americans, who have been waiting 40 years since the bill’s original introduction, that vote cannot come soon enough.
Americans of both parties are opposed to discrimination in the workforce based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. Recently Tony Fabrizio, one of the nation’s most respected Republican pollsters, released a study showing that 77 percent of Republicans support non-discrimination in the workforce. Now is the time for Congress to follow the lead of the people and give every American the freedom to seek and hold meaningful employment without fear of unfair discrimination.
This legislation is about freedom. It is about ensuring that every American can work without the fear of discrimination based upon his or her sexual orientation, a policy that has broad support in the business community. Eighty-six percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their workplace non-discrimination policies, and nearly a quarter prohibits discrimination based upon gender identity.
This legislation is about fairness. It is not about creating “special rights” for a single group of Americans, or forcing increased litigation on businesses. In fact, in a 2000 study of states which have enacted similar laws, the Government Accountability Office found “no indication that these laws have generated a significant amount of litigation.”
When it is signed into law, ENDA will protect all Americans from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, just as current law protects those based on race, religion, sex, national orientation and disability. Under ENDA, employees working for both the government and in the private sector would be free from being judged on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity when it comes to decisions about their being hired, fired, promoted or on any matter relating to their compensation.
Employment non-discrimination enjoys strong bipartisan support, is good for American business, and goes a long way to ensure that all hard-working Americans are judged based solely on job performance. Congress must act now to pass ENDA.
Terry Hamilton is the National Chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans and Michael Mitchell is the Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats. This piece was also published in the Huffington Post.