ENDA expected to be Reintroduced to Congress Today

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is expected to be reintroduced to Congress later today. Now that former sponsor Representative Barney Frank has retired, the bill will be introduced in the House by Rep. Jared Polis, a democrat from Colorado, who is the most senior openly gay member of the house. It is currently being reviewed, though it is unclear what might be changed from the last time the bill was introduced. In the Senate, the bill will be introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Along with Merkley, the Senate version will have four original sponsors; Democrats Tom Harkin of Iowa and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Republicans Mark Kirk, of Illinois, and Susan Collins, of Maine.

The first incarnation of ENDA, the Equality Act, was introduced on the fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in 1974. After the defeat of that act, the new bill, which only focused on employment discrimination wasn't introduced until 1994. ENDA has been introduced into every session of congress since then, except for the 109th.  

In 2007, ENDA was introduced for the first time with protections against discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. That version of the bill died in committee. It was then introduced with the provision for gender identity removed and passed the House but was never brought to committee or the floor of the Senate. After it died in the Senate, it was generally agreed upon by advocates that all future versions of the bill had include provisions for gender identity.

Though the bill will very likely die in the House of Representatives, Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, told the Washington Blade there is a reason for introducing the bill at this time.

“After the Supreme Court rules in the Windsor marriage case, many right-wingers are going to denounce marriage equality for same-sex couples, but claim that they don’t believe in discrimination against LGBT Americans,” Almeida explained. “That’s the time when we should call some of those bluffs by putting ENDA on the Senate floor and letting all 100 senators go on the record about whether hardworking Americans should get fired just because of who they are or who they love.”