Unprecedented Support in the U.S. Senate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Posted on: November 6th, 2013

By Tonei Glavinic

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend employment civil rights protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity, passed a key procedural vote in the U.S. Senate earlier this week by a vote of 61-30. It was the first time that the bill has reached the floor of the Senate since 1996.

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican, spoke on the floor in favor of the bill. It was the first time Sen. Kirk has delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate since suffering a major stroke nearly two years ago.

“I have been silent for the past two years due to a stroke…I have risen to speak because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute,” Kirk said. “This is not a major change to law…I would say it is already the law in 21 states. I think it’s particularly appropriate for an Illinois Republican to speak on behalf of this measure, in the true tradition of Everett McKinley Dirksen and Abraham Lincoln — men who gave us the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 13th amendment to the Constitution.”

No senators spoke in opposition to the bill during the procedural vote on Monday. However, advocates have expressed concerns about religious exceptions in the bill: the New York Times editorial board called the base exemptions in the bill as it stands “terribly broad,” and an amendment proposed by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to further expand the religious exemption to include virtually all religiously affiliated employers has drawn strong and universal opposition from civil rights organizations working on the bill.

ENDA is expected to pass in the Senate when it comes up for a final vote, but its chances in the House are uncertain at this time.

Watch Senator Kirk’s remarks at the Huffington Post and read more at NPR Morning Edition.

Tonei Glavinic is a student in the MA in Social Justice and Community Development and a graduate assistant for the Provost Office for Social Justice Initiatives.


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