Merkley, Kirk Bill to End LGBT Employment Discrimination Receives Hearing in Senate

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on bill sponsored by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) that would end employment discrimination for LGBT individuals. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, makes it illegal to discriminate against workers on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Freedom from employment discrimination is just a matter of fundamental fairness,” said Merkley after the hearing. “No one should have their right to make a living threatened because of who they are. This hearing is a critical step toward equality for all.”

“Senator Everett Dirksen, a fiscal conservative and social moderate from Illinois who helped pass the Civil Rights Act, serves as a model for continuing the principles of this legislation,” said a spokesperson for Senator Kirk. “Nothing provides more dignity than a job and America’s economy needs a productive, diverse, competitive workforce. This country will gain more jobs and have higher incomes when the most qualified individuals are given the best opportunities, regardless of orientation.”

Less than half of all states have legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, despite the fact that LGBT Americans report employment discrimination and unemployment at much higher rates than the U.S. average.