The U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, will be voted on before Thanksgiving. ENDA is intended to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Missouri and nationally. This bill has been introduced in almost every Congress since 1994, and it missed passing by one vote in 1996. The House did pass a version of the bill in 2007, but it languished in the Senate and faced a certain veto from then President George W. Bush.

The proposed law exempts the U.S. military and religious organizations. It is also important to note that federal law already bans employers from discriminating based on color, race, sex, age, nationality or disability. Critical Republican support was built with provisions that protect employers that are religious-based. At least 55 senators have endorsed the bill, and many feel that there is enough support to pass the 60 vote mark and avoid a filibuster.

ENDA’s future in the House of Representatives is less certain. There are 186 co-sponsers and it does have the support of many moderate Republicans. Most supporters believe that if it does make to the House floor, there are enough votes to pass it.

There is some reason to believe that conservatives in the House might support ENDA, and President Obama has stated that he would sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. If ENDA becomes law, it would close a hole that has existed in federal law for many years. Employers would be required to treat all groups equally when they make hiring and firing decisions. As things stand without the law, those who are discriminated against due to gender identity or sexual orientation may have to look into legal pathways for equality.

Source: USA Today, “Senate to vote on gay rights bill by Thanksgiving“, Susan Davis, October 28, 2013