Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Monday that he intends to hold a floor vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act before Congress leaves D.C. for Thanksgiving. Reid did not announce a precise day when the long-languishing legislation will be debated, but some observers expect the bill could come to the floor as early as next week. The legislation passed a Senate committee with bipartisan support in July.
"I thank Majority Leader Reid for committing to bring ENDA to the floor this work period," said Oregon Democratic senator Jeff Merkley, a chief sponsor of the bill that would outlaw employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender idenity. "Americans understand that it's time to make sure our LGBT friends and family are treated fairly and have the same opportunities. Now it's time for our laws to catch up. People should be judged at work on their ability to do the job, period."
Several LGBT organizations applauded the announcement, noting that the legislation is long overdue, as it's been introduced in almost every Congress since 1994.
"NCTE is grateful for Senator Reid and Senator Merkley for their leadership on moving ENDA forward," said Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in a statement Monday. "Their commitment to do this and to do it right is so important to transgender people. Right now we have the best chance ever to pass ENDA through one of the chambers, which is going to be an important step for us to getting ENDA passed when it's finally able to move in the House. Because of all the work people have done over the years at the grassroots level and on Capitol Hill, we're optimistic that the Senate vote will go our way. The forthcoming Senate vote will change the playing field once we have a friendlier House that can tackle ENDA."
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force also issued a statement commended Reid and Merkley for their "steadfast opposition of discrimination and support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act." In the statement, executive director Rea Carey noted, "The vast majority of Americans believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people should not have to live in fear of being fired or discriminated against at work because of who they are or who they love. The upcoming ENDA vote is an historic opportunity for all senators to listen to the American people and be on the right side of history."