Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin was the first to take to the Senate floor and speak in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as the chamber opened its initial debate on the subject this afternoon.
The freshman Senator took note of her historic position in the chamber, as the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to serve in the U.S. Senate.
"One year ago this week, the people of Wisconsin elected me to the U.S. Senate," recalled Baldwin. "The citizens of Wisconsin made history, electing our state’s first women to the United States Senate, and electing the first out gay or lesbian person to the United States Senate in the history of our great nation. But I didn’t run to make history, I ran to make a difference — a difference that would give everyone a fair shot at achieving their dreams."
Baldwin applauded the bipartisan cosponsors of the legislation that would make it a federal offense to fire or refuse to hire someone solely because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, while also noting that her home state has had similar legislation on its books since 1982 — making Wisconsin the first state to add sexual orientation to its list of antidiscrimination protections.
Baldwin also acknowledged the difference of opinions on the issue, but urged her colleagues to stand on the right side of history.
"I realize that for some, this is not an easy vote," said Baldwin. "I understand that for some, they may believe that it’s not good politics. But I want to say that I have a deep respect for those who choose to stand on the side of progress for our country this week. So for those that stand up this week and answer the call for courage, I can say with confidence your courage will be respected and remembered when the history of this struggle is written."
The Senate is scheduled to take a cloture vote — a procedural motion that would avoid a Republican filibuster if at least 60 Senators vote in favor — at 5:30 p.m. Eastern tonight.
Watch Baldwin's complete remarks below.