This morning, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee voted 15-7 to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with support from Republican Sens. Mark Kirk (IL), Orrin Hatch (UT), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). The bill, now headed for the Senate floor, is considered instrumental in preventing workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and mending the “broken bargain” of unequal treatment of LGBT workers under the law.
Here are five data-driven reasons why there is record support — 53 Senate cosponsors — for passing ENDA:
1. LGBT workers face incredibly high rates of workplace discrimination. Nearly 4 out of 10 “out” gay, lesbian, or bisexual employees report experiencing harassment at work, and 9 out of 10 transgender people report the same. Even more shocking is that 9 percent of “out” LGB workers, and 26 percent of transgender workers, have been fired simply because of who they are.
2. LGBT people and their families face economic insecurity because of employment discrimination. Getting harassed in the workplace isn’t just a matter of discomfort for LGBT workers — the economic consequences for these individuals and their families are devastating. Employment discrimination is a major driver of economic insecurity among LGBT families. Contrary to popular stereotypes, gay and lesbian couples are more likely to live in poverty, and poverty rates for lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are as high or higher than for straight adults. For transgender employees, the situation is even more severe —15 percent of transgender people live on under $10k a year — over four times the rate of the general population.
3. A majority of states do not prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers. In most states, LGBT workers have no recourse for harassment or discrimination in employment. Though more states pass LGBT inclusive nondiscrimination laws each year, only 21 states and DC prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and only 17 and DC forbid employers from discriminating on the basis of gender identity. Thus, firing someone just for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is perfectly legal in more than half the country.
4. 9 out of 10 Americans already believe ENDA is already federal law. Even though ENDA would be the first federal law to prohibit employers from discriminating against LGBT people, 9 out of 10 voters mistakenly believe LGBT workers already have federal protections against employment discrimination. The lack of outcry from that 90 percent of voters who believe that ENDA is already law discredits the arguments of opponents who claim that the bill introduces outrageous “special protections” for LGBT employees or that it would impermissibly tell employers what to do.
5. There is overwhelming support from voters and business owners for LGBT-inclusive workplace protections. Polling by the Center for American Progress shows that 73 percent of the American public supports nondiscrimination protections for LGBT employees. This support cuts across demographic lines. Two-thirds of Republicans, 74 percent of Catholics, 61 percent of senior citizens, and even half of people who identify themselves as being anti-gay support ENDA’s protections. A 2013 Small Business Majority poll similarly shows that small business is also in favor of workplace protections. 67 percent of small businesses believe the federal law should prohibit employment discrimination against LGBT people.
The premise of ENDA is a simple one: employees should be judged based on their merit, and nobody should be harassed or turned away from a hard day’s work simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The numbers tell the story, and it’s now up to Congress to take action and pass ENDA into law.
Andrew Cray is a Policy Analyst for LGBT Progress.