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Increasing Support for Proposed Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination on Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

by Professor Will Huhn on November 12, 2009

in Civil Rights,Wilson Huhn

     The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is moving through both houses of Congress.  A similar law in Salt Lake City picked up unexpected support from the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

     The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban employment discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people, has been introduced in Congress with broad bipartisan support.  Here is some background on the bill from the Human Rights Campaign.  In the House, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has introduced H.R. 3017, which has 189 co-sponsors, and in the Senate, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), has introduced S. 1584, which has 43 c0-sponsors.  On November 5 the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing on S. 1584.  The Chair of the Committee, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), released a statement which commences with these words:

"The issue here could not be more simple. We are talking about a fundamental American value â equal treatment for all â a principle that citizens who work hard, pay their taxes and contribute to their communities deserve fair treatment and should not be discriminated against.

"Over the last 45 years, we have made great strides towards eliminating discrimination in the workplace. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, in 1967, prohibited discrimination on the basis of age. The Americans with Disabilities Act, in 1990, prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability. It is time, at long last, for us to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as well. Such discrimination is wrong and cannot be tolerated.

     Rosemary Winters and Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune report that the Church of Latter-Day Saints endorsed a municipal ordinance banning discrimination in employment and housing against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  In an article dated November 11, they state:

At a public hearing Tuesday, church spokesman Michael Otterson expressed strong support for ordinances that, starting in April, will ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and employment. Salt Lake City, home to the worldwide faith's headquarters, approved the statutes in a unanimous City Council vote.

     The reporters quoted another LDS official to the effect that the church would support similar state-wide legislation.  The church's position on this question was welcomed by local and national gay rights groups: here is an article on the subject by Michael Aaron of QSaltLake and a reaction from Harry Knox, Religion and Faith Director of the Human Rights Campaign.   

     With the LDS on board, I predict that any remaining opposition to ENDA will collapse, and that it will become law later this year or early next year.  In tomorrow's post I will describe what ENDA will and will not do.

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