This morning at an event at the Center for American Progress, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) promised that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) “will move this year” in the Senate. ENDA would create national protections that prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but has languished in Congress for decades.
Harkin did not further specify his plans, but as Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, he has the power to ensure it receives at least a committee mark-up and vote. Last year, the HELP committee held a hearing on the bill, which featured the first-ever transgender individual to testify before the Senate. Kylar Broadus spoke of the pain he suffered when colleagues he’d worked beside for years learned that he was trans and suddenly couldn’t remember which pronouns to refer to him by. In 34 states, it’s still legal for employers to fire or refuse to hire someone just for being transgender, and ENDA would help fix that. With bi-partisan support, the bill seems poised to advance — at least out of committee.
There is speculation that President Obama might mention ENDA or a similar executive order that would create protections for employees of federal contractors in tonight’s State of the Union address.