Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D- Hawai"i) voted to advance key legislation to provide workplace protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and expand federal equal rights to LGBT individuals. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), co-sponsored by Schatz, would expand existing protections against employment discrimination to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. Current law protects employees from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability.
The legislation passed a major procedural hurdle in the Senate today by a vote of 61-30 and is now expected to pass later this week.
"Everyone, in Hawai"i and across the country, deserves the right to go to work and earn a good living for your family -- this is certainly true regardless of the gender of who you love,"said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. "I'm proud that in Hawai"i we banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, and I'm committed to ensuring these equal rights are protected nationwide."
"Senator Schatz has been a passionate advocate for LGBT rights throughout his career," said Jacce Mikulanec, Policy & Community Partnerships Director of Good Beginnings Alliance. "His co-sponsorship of ENDA and his history of support for marriage equality has helped to move Hawaii and our nation in the right direction."
Schatz has long fought for expanding equal rights. He signed an amicus brief declaring that marriage equality must be a constitutional right for every American and urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of DOMA in the landmark Windsor decision, the Senator said: "Because of this decision, the federal government can no longer tell men and women who they can or cannot marry, and same-sex married couples can now enjoy the same federal benefits as the rest of us. I have always believed in marriage equality, and will continue to do everything in my power to help our LGBT friends and loved ones achieve equality."
Last week, his wife Linda Schatz testified in support of marriage equality before a special session of the Hawai"i State Senate and Assembly on behalf of the Senator who was working in Washington.