Now is the time for President Obama to act with the full authority of his office and his character to pass a gay rights agenda that, in the end, will be seen as neither particularly radical nor particularly partisan but as a simple matter of fairness under the law. A promising first step would be to fast-track passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
Currently, twelve states have laws on the books proscribing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and an additional seven have laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity. Other states have executive orders or court decisions that protect public sector workers. But for 35 years, federal legislation to ensure equal protection for all LBGT people living in the US has been introduced only to be defeated again and again.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act was most recently introduced in 2007, when it passed the House by a vote of 235 to 184 in 2007, with thirty-five Republicans in favor, before dying under the threat of a Bush veto. Recent Gallup polls put public support for workplace rights for LGBT people at a staggering 89 percent.
Representative Barney Frank, joined by Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis and at least 100 cosponsors, has reintroduced ENDA in 2009 as H.R.2981, with ten cosponsors from both parties and with gender identity protections included in the bill. The bill would prevent employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and job training programs from discriminating against LGBT people. It would not require employers to give preferential treatment to LGBT people, or enforce a quota, and it would exempt religious organizations from its rules.
We have a Democratic president in office who has declared himself a “fierce advocate” for gay rights, and administration officials have stated that ENDA is one of their legislative goals.
As The Nation's Richard Kim pointed out, the time is now to push a new, inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act through Congress and get it signed into law, giving equal protection to LGBT citizens across the country, regardless of state law.
Join The Nation in urging your Representative to cosponsor and support the inclusive ENDA, putting it in front of a president who will sign it into law. Add your name and any additional thoughts to the bottom of the email. We'll find your Congressional representatives based on your zip code and send it to them.