The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is advancing through the Senate and onto the House. And while this important legislation is gathering significant media attention, there is an aspect of the legislation that has been missing in the news coverage.
The current version of ENDA will include protections on the basis of sexual orientations and gender identities. However, it is possible that you would miss gender identity when watching reports on the bill.
On October 28, Rachel Maddow talked about Senator Reid's pledge to bring ENDA up for a vote before Thanksgiving. Maddow summarized the bill by saying, "ENDA is the long standing, long suffering bill that simply says that you can't get fired or refused a job because of your sexual orientation or identity. So you can't put up a sign that says 'gays need not apply'." The word "gender" was left out.
Even yesterday, when The Washington Post reported on the Senate vote to advance ENDA to a floor debate, they called ENDA, "legislation banning discrimination against gays in the workplace."
Likewise, a USA Today report on ENDA doesn't talk about gender identity until the end, when it quoted a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office that said that the states that have employment protections have experienced "relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
These sorts of characterizations of ENDA as being only for gay and lesbian people are misleading, and, in the long run, harmful. In 2007, protections on the basis of gender identity were stripped from the proposed bill, causing division among LGBT advocates. The bill ultimately failed.
Already anti-LGBT activists are attacking protections on the basis of gender identity. Many anti-LGBT activists have trumpeted "bathroom fears," but such claims do not hold water. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation are attacking transgender people, painting them as predators, stating that by keeping their jobs, transgender people will confuse children. These misleading claims should not stand unchallenged.
Data gathered shows that transgender individuals are the victims rather than perpetrators of sexual violence, physical violence, and other forms of discrimination. ENDA would help decrease discrimination cases against transgender employees by providing federal employment protections.
Nothing will prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to wear a certain type of dress not prohibited by other Federal, State, or local laws. If an employee has undergone transition prior to employment, or during employment, they will be allowed to follow the same grooming rules as the sex to which the employee is transitioning or has transitioned to.
GLAAD calls on the media to report fully and accurately on ENDA. It is not simply a "gay rights" bill, but a bill that protects workers from being harassed or fired on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
For more information on ENDA, visit www.glaad.org/enda.