Merkley Joins Victims of Employment Discrimination to Support Legislation Providing Protection for LGBT Employees

D.C. –
Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley joined several victims of employment
discrimination today in support of bipartisan legislation to provide basic
protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation
and gender identity.  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA),
introduced by Senator Merkley and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), would protect
qualified, hardworking Americans from being fired, denied job opportunities, or
otherwise discriminated against just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or

is simply no place in the workplace for discrimination,” said Senator
Merkley.  “It is our duty to ensure that all Americans, regardless of
sexual orientation or gender identity, have the right to earn a living, and I
am proud to join Diane, Mike, and Earline here today to highlight that job
discrimination is still very much alive in America.  By passing the
Employment Non-Discrimination Act, we can guarantee that the fundamental
principles of equal justice and equal opportunity apply not to some, but to all

support strengthening federal laws to protect American workers from
discrimination.  Similar to the current law in several states, including
Maine, and the policies of many Fortune 500 company, the Employment
Non-Discrimination Act would close an important gap in federal civil rights
laws,” said Senator Collins.

Joining Senator Merkley today to share their experiences
with workplace discrimination were Diane
Schroer, a transgender woman and 25-year veteran of the U.S Army Special Forces
from Illinois; Mike Carney, a gay police officer from Massachusetts; and
Earline Budd, a transgender woman from Washington D.C. who suffered from
discrimination in the workplace and has since become an outspoken advocate for
transgender rights.

After retiring from the military, Diane interviewed for a
position as a terrorism research analyst with the Library of Congress and was offered the job.  At the time, Diane was
identifying publicly as David and had recently begun the process of
transitioning from male to female.  After informing her future supervisor
about the transition, Diane’s job offer was rescinded and she was told that she
would not be a good fit.

someone who served this country for 25 years in the U.S. Army, I have always
believed that the promise of America is that everyone will be judged on the
basis of their merit and character.  Unfortunately, when I disclosed to a
future employer that I am a transgender American, I found out the hard way that
this promise doesn’t yet extend to everyone,” Schroer said.  “I’m here
today supporting ENDA because I don’t want anyone else to experience the pain
and frustration I went through when I was denied a job based not on my skills
but because of who I am. Discrimination against gay and transgender people
still exists in this country and it’s our responsibility to end it.”

During his first seven years serving as a police officer in
Springfield, Massachusetts, Mike Carney suffered serious mental anguish caused
by the personal and societal pressures of being a closeted gay man in a law
enforcement community that wasn’t accepting of who he was.  He suffered
humiliation and pain, eventually resigning from the job he loved. 

In 1991, Mike co-founded the Gay Officers Action
League of New England, a support group for gay law enforcement officers. 
After meeting hundreds of fellow gay officers and receiving the support he
needed, Mike applied for reinstatement to his position in 1991.  This
time, he disclosed that he was gay.  He was denied. Two and a half years
after filing the first complaint of orientation discrimination ever against a
law enforcement agency in Massachusetts, Mike won his case with the
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and returned to work as a
Springfield police officer, where he continues to serve today.

fact that I’m gay doesn’t affect my job performance, but it continues to affect
my employability in America,” Carney said.  “I love my job as a cop. 
If I hadn’t lived in Massachusetts, or in one of the 12 other states and
District of Columbia that protect GLBT people from discrimination, I wouldn’t
have been able to get it back.  I’m proud to be here today to support ENDA
and the fight to eliminate sexual orientation and gender identity as a barrier
to equal employment.”

native of Washington D.C., Earline Budd had a job in the early 1980’s that she
had gotten based on the merit of her experience.  After being identified
as transgendered in a newspaper article, she faced discrimination from her
superiors at work that forced her to leave the organization.  Earline’s
experience with discrimination has caused her great personal hardship. 
She has since become an outspoken advocate for transgender rights and engages
with transgender individuals for whom discrimination is a daily occurrence,
impeding their ability to find work and participate in society.

have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects workplace discrimination can
have,” Budd said.  “No one should have to face the hardship that comes
with losing a job for no reason other than someone else not liking who you
are.  The fact that ENDA includes protections for those discriminated
against based on their gender identity is a huge step forward in achieving
truly equal rights for transgender Americans.”

There is currently no federal law that consistently
protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination.  In fact, it
remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation,
and in 38 states to do so based on gender identity or expression. 

ENDA is closely modeled on existing civil rights laws,
including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with
Disabilities Act.  It explicitly prohibits preferential treatment and
quotas and does not permit disparate impact suits.  In addition, the bill
exempts small businesses with fewer than 15 employees, religious organizations
and the military, and does not require that domestic partner benefits be
provided to the same-sex partners of employees.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been endorsed by national civil rights
organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, the Leadership Conference on
Civil Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the ACLU, labor
organizations and more than 60 Fortune 500 companies.