Merkley introduces ENDA in Senate

An Oregon lawmaker made history Wednesday by introducing a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. Senate, marking the first time ever that a trans-inclusive bill has been considered in that chamber of Congress.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, a first-term Democratic senator, told the Blade he’s sponsoring the legislation because “it stems from core conviction” about his belief in fairness and equality.

“For me, one of the huge issues that I’ve cared a lot about is equality under the law and fairness to all Americans, and this was just a core part of the way I view the world,” he said.

Merkley said he was designated as the lead sponsor of ENDA because he championed a similar non-discrimination bill in Oregon as a lawmaker in the state House, as well as legislation enacting domestic partnerships in Oregon.

As of Wednesday, Merkley had 37 co-sponsors to the legislation, including Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), according to a statement released by Merkley’s office.

Merkley is a member of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, which would hold hearings on the legislation and fine-tune the bill before it reaches the Senate floor. But whether the committee will hold hearings on the legislation, Merkley said, has “yet to be addressed.”

“That is certainly one of the things that I’ll be pursuing with Sen. Dodd and with Sen. Kennedy’s team,” Merkley said.