Senate will take up employment discrimination bill as early as next week

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as early as next week.

ENDA bans discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced the bill earlier this year. S. 815 has the support of most Senate Democrats and couple Republicans and cleared the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in July.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) office confirmed that the legislation could reach the floor “as early as next week.” Durbin will need to whip at least 60 votes in order to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Gay-rights groups have argued that the legislation in necessary because currently employment discrimination is prohibited on the basis or sex and race, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. A narrower version of ENDA passed in the House six years ago.

“It is long past time that Congress come together to protect LGBT people from discrimination and harassment in the workplace,” said Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work. “After months of meeting with Republican Senators and their senior staff, we’re confident we have the 60 votes to defeat any attempted filibuster. … Now is the time for the Senate to act.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Ore.) introduced House companion measure, but House leaders have not giving any indication that the bill would be taken up in that chamber.