Telling the truth about ENDA

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been both a major point of contention and confusion in the past few months as it has made its way to the Senate. Many anti-LGBT activists, politicians, and news commentators have recently spread a great deal of misinformation about ENDA in order to discourage its passing, and Media Matters for America is debunking the myths and highlighting the facts about this crucial bill.

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted on ENDA—it is now being passed to the full Senate for review.

ENDA is a bipartisan-supported bill that would prevent employers from making workplace decisions based on an employee's perceived (or actual) sexual orientation or gender identity. As federal law already prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability, passing ENDA would only make for a fairer and more complete set of employment standards.

Yet, opponents of the bill have made many erroneous claims about ENDA. Media Matters for America recently debunked several myths put fourth by anti-LGBT activists about ENDA, and highlighted the facts they attempt to hide.

One of the most prominent and incorrect myths that Media Matters challenges is that ENDA confers so-called "preferential treatment" to LGBT employees. In reality, ENDA only extends pre-existing basic workplace protections to a greater number of people who have been marginalized and discriminated against in the workplace for decades. It does not create any additional employment rights specifically for LGBT employees. 

Another popular myth is that ENDA would force employers to discriminate against religious employees. While this would certainly be alarming, the truth is that ENDA does not favor LGBT employees at the expense of religious employees. Aside from the fact that there are LGBT people of faith, ENDA is a bill that only extends basic workplace nondiscrimination rights to LGBT employees. Current federal protections still stand—ENDA does not erase previous rulings on freedom from religious discrimination. In fact, studies have shown that it is overwhelming LGBT employees who face discrimination in the workplace based on a variety of factors--ENDA would mitigate these injustices by protecting against religious discrimination. 

The final, and perhaps most disturbing, myth about ENDA relates to transphobic views about workplace shared-facility use—specifically, that allowing transgender employees to use the bathrooms consistent with their gender identity would pose a risk to women's safety. Besides invalidating transgender peoples' identities, and unfounded "fears" about bathrooms, recent data gathered shows that transgender individuals are actually the victims rather than perpetrators of sexual violence, physical violence, and other forms of discrimination. According to Dr. Jillian T. Weiss at the Bilerico Project, there are "over 270,000 sexual assaults per year in the U.S…how many cases involving transgender people in bathrooms have there been in any year? Zero." ENDA would help lessen discrimination against transgender people by providing federal employment protections for a vastly marginalized community.

In order to hold anti-LGBT commentators and newscasters accountable for what is said on-air, GLAAD began the Commentator Accountability Project (CAP) in 2012. The creation of CAP is intended to clarify the misinformation and lies that are being spread by anti-LGBT actvists, not only about ENDA, but all legislation protecting LGBT people. GLAAD urges media professionals to tell the truth about ENDA and call out the false claims of anti-LGBT commentators.