WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), released the following statement after the Senate voted 64-32 today to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The bill, S. 815 would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Senator Cardin is a cosponsor of ENDA and has been in previous Congressional sessions. ENDA would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on his or her sexual orientation. Current federal law bars employment discrimination only on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability, but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I’m proud to join my colleagues in supporting this important legislation that protects all Americans against discrimination in the workplace regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. I urge the House of Representatives to move quickly and provide final approval of ENDA so that it can be signed into law. We should leave no doubt that Congress is united against discrimination in any form.
“Passage of ENDA will reinforce U.S. leadership around the world and help support the LGBT community in places like Russia, Africa and some countries in Europe that have taken discriminatory actions to marginalize lesbians, gays, and those who, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have been discriminated against. America’s core values are based upon equal rights for all, and that is what passage of ENDA means to our citizens and people around the world. It’s also a powerful tool to boost our economy. If we are going to be able to adequately compete globally, we need to empower all of the people of this country. We can’t leave anyone behind.”
The vast majority of the nation’s largest companies and the majority of small businesses already have sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination policies in place, according to the Center for American Progress. Specifically, 74% of Fortune 100 companies, nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies, and 6 out of 10 small businesses protect their employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Maryland is one of only 21 states that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. And only 17 states include gender identity protection in those anti-discrimination laws. Several Maryland municipalities also have prohibited discrimination based on gender identity, including Baltimore City, Montgomery County, Howard County, and Baltimore County.