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Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. BALDWIN. Mr. President, I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to the Senator from Arizona for his very thoughtful and careful approach to considering this legislation. I enjoyed working with the Senator during our days in the House of Representatives and remember well the vote the Senator cast back in 2007 after great study and reflection.

I think we find ourselves in the position we are in right now, with an expanded bill that has protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity, because of the leadership of the Senator from Oregon.

To the point of the concerns that have been raised in this colloquy, there has been a really exhaustive amount of research done on those States that have passed similar pieces of legislation at the State level and how they chose to move forward on employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I have discussed with the Senator from Oregon on numerous occasions the approach most States have taken and the success these bills have had in helping to keep all of our employment decisions based on work ethic, character, and loyalty, and the subjects on which they should be focused.

I look forward to working on this measure in the future, and I thank both the Senators from Arizona and the Senator from Oregon for their focus on ENDA.

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Ms. BALDWIN. Mr. President, the bill before us today, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, contains a very carefully negotiated bipartisan religious exemption provision. The amendment before us right now significantly expands that provision, and I rise to share why I believe it would be unwise to do so and urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment.

Religious organizations are not touched by this legislation. They can use an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity in their employment decisions if they choose to. ENDA does apply, however, to businesses and entities that are not primarily religious in purpose and character.

Just as with other civil rights legislation and in laws protecting individuals from discrimination on the bases of race, sex, national origin, religion, age, and disability, a capable employee in a nonreligious business should not be fired--or not hired--because of his or her boss's religious beliefs.

The amendment offered by Senator Toomey would broaden this exemption to allow an employer to be exempt from ENDA if it is affiliated with a particular religious organization, even if it engages primarily in secular activities. Allowing this type of exemption could be interpreted so broadly that it could negate the bill and its important protections for American workers.

The provision of this bill that this amendment seeks to modify is the product of a long and significant bipartisan negotiation and compromise.

I ask unanimous consent for 2 additional minutes.

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Ms. BALDWIN. I am a former Member of the House of Representatives, and I worked very closely with faith groups and civil rights advocates over the months leading up to consideration of ENDA in 2007 to arrive at the religious exemption compromise in the bill we are considering today. In fact, this current language in the bill before us passed the House of Representatives on a broad bipartisan basis of 402 to 25 as a floor amendment during our consideration of ENDA in 2007. It is a bipartisan compromise supported by many religious organizations, including the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, and the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism.

Over 40 religious organizations wrote to endorse this bill with a letter that reads:

Any claims that ENDA harms religious liberty are misplaced. ENDA broadly exempts from its scope houses of worship as well as religiously affiliated organizations. This exemption--which covers the same religious organizations already exempted from religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964--should ensure that religious freedom concerns don't hinder the passage of this critical legislation.

I ask my colleagues to oppose this amendment and then join together on a historic day to vote in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

I yield the floor.

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