News / USA

Workplace Protections for Gays Advance in US Senate

Sen. Tom Harkin, right, stands with Sen. Susan Collins just after the Senate cleared a major hurdle and agreed to proceed to debate a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination  against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, at the Capitol in Washington, Nov. 4, 2013.
Sen. Tom Harkin, right, stands with Sen. Susan Collins just after the Senate cleared a major hurdle and agreed to proceed to debate a bill that would prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, at the Capitol in Washington, Nov. 4, 2013.
Michael Bowman
A bill to protect homosexual and trans-gendered Americans from workplace discrimination has cleared an initial hurdle in the U.S. Senate, and is expected to be approved in the coming days. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, has President Barack Obama’s backing, but appears unlikely to come up for a vote in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

The Democratic-led Senate voted Monday to begin debate on ENDA by a vote of 61 to 30, a margin that all but assures passage in the chamber when a final vote is held.

At a time when same-sex marriage stands at the forefront of the battle over gay rights, ENDA seeks to address a different concern: the ability of gay people to work and support themselves. In a majority of U.S. states, it is not against the law for a worker to be denied a job or fired over his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

Democratic Senator Tom Harkin said ENDA would ban such discrimination nationwide.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered [LGBT] Americans deserve the same civil rights protections from discrimination as all other Americans. This bill will accomplish that," he said. "No American should be turned away or having to fear the loss of their job or their means of support for any reasons other than their ability to do that job.”

All Democratic senators voted to advance ENDA, joined by seven Republicans, including Susan Collins of the northeastern state of Maine.

“The right to work is fundamental," she said. "How can we in good conscience deny that right to any LGBT American who is qualified and willing to work?”

No senator took the floor Monday to speak in opposition to ENDA. But despite the bill’s exemptions for religious organizations, some conservative groups have decried ENDA as an affront to people of faith and an attack on religious liberty.

In the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner issued a statement saying the bill will encourage frivolous lawsuits and hamper job creation. Without Boehner’s backing, it is not likely ENDA will get a vote in the House, and it is not clear the bill would pass there even if it did.

Many of America’s best-known corporations already have policies banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Polls show large majorities of Americans not only support workplace protections for gay people, but mistakenly believe such protections already exist nationwide. Current U.S. law bans discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion and disability.

More than four dozen countries have laws protecting gays in the workplace, including many European nations, Canada, Israel and Australia.

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

update At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid