Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), a former chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), hailed today's Senate vote for cloture, meeting the 60-vote threshold that permits debate, on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Norton has been pressing for the bill, first introduced two decades ago, but it had never before been taken up by the Senate. The bill has special meaning for Norton because it amends the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring job discrimination, which she enforced as chair of the EEOC.
"ENDA has long had the support of an impressive majority of the American people," said Norton. "Just as barring job discrimination based on race was the first of the historic civil rights acts of the 1960s, eliminating job discrimination based on sexual orientation should have been among the first to afford equal job opportunity to the LGBT community. Congress is so late in ensuring job equality for the LGBT community that 21 states and the District of Columbia have led the way, barring workplace sexual orientation discrimination, and such discrimination in jobs has been set aside in much of corporate America. Even if the Republican House continues its pattern of perpetuating inequality and ignores this bill to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, the Senate vote is a historic first that can only increase pressure for progress, isolating those who insist on discredited bigotry."
Norton noted the historic similarities between the Senate's ENDA vote and the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which she voted to repeal in 2010, when Democrats were in the House majority and she had the right to vote on amendments on the House floor in the Committee of the Whole.