Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, the legislation that is currently pending before this body, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, S. 815, provides a historic opportunity for us to advance civil rights in this country and end employment discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders, the LGBT community.
The United States has shown international leadership against discrimination, promoting better understanding and tolerance around the globe. That has made the security of countries better. It has provided opportunities for minority communities. The United States has been in the forefront of those efforts. We have shown leadership internationally and we have done that because we have taken action in our own country to protect against discrimination. Action at home helps us provide that credibility for our international leadership. Passage of S. 815, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, would demonstrate that action, that we have taken the right action at home and, therefore, we have the standing to promote better understanding globally.
The U.S. leadership has been shown in many different ways. I am very proud that one of the primary organizations the United States has participated in that has advanced human rights is the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Our local arm in participating is the Helsinki Commission. I have the honor of chairing the Helsinki Commission, which includes Members of both the House and the Senate, along with members of the administration. We have used that role in the Helsinki Commission to promote an international agenda to deal with best practices to end discrimination on ethnic communities, religious communities, and racial discrimination. As a result of U.S. leadership, we have made a difference. We made a difference in Europe, we made a difference in North America, and we made a difference around the world.
Today there are special representatives under the OSCE to promote tolerance in regard to minority communities on race, the Muslim community, and Jewish communities. We have made a difference in the Roma population in Europe, which has been badly discriminated against. We have had conferences to deal with anti-Semitism to help the Jewish communities of Europe, and we have helped religious minorities around the region.
U.S. leadership is needed to help the LGBT community. We have seen countries in Europe take discriminatory actions to marginalize lesbians, gays, and those who, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have been discriminated against. In order to do that, we need to pass the legislation before us to give us the moral ground and to promote the core values of our country. America’s core values are based upon equal rights for all citizens, and that is what we need to promote by the passage of this legislation.
I must tell you it also is important for economic advancements. 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.
I am proud of what has happened in my own State of Maryland. Maryland has had a proud history of advancing civil rights for all of its citizens. Two weekends ago I had the opportunity to join in the 25th anniversary of Equality Maryland. In 25 years, they have changed the landscape in regard to the LGBT community in my State of Maryland. We passed many laws that have advanced protection for all of our citizens in our State.
The State of Maryland has passed laws. We have had local governments pass law. Baltimore City has passed a law, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Howard County, and the list goes on. In Maryland, not only did our legislature pass marriage equality, it was a petition to referendum and the voters of Maryland approved marriage equality. We have taken steps in our State to advance the rights of all of our citizens, including the LGBT community.
It has been nearly half a century since we passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That has been our law for almost half a century. ENDA, the legislation before us, would expand that to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has worked. It has worked. It has provided enforcement mechanisms for those who have been discriminated against in their employment because of their race or because of their religion or because of their national origin or because of their sex. It has worked. ENDA would expand that protection for sexual orientation and gender identity. It is time we do this. Twenty-one States have already acted, including my State of Maryland. We have passed laws. Seventeen States include gender identity. Federalism has worked.
What do I mean by that? We have seen that there is a national law. The law is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It set up the framework so that everyone understands we won’t tolerate discrimination in the workplace. It has had a workable way where those who are victimized can get remedy, but the real remedy we want is equal employment opportunity for all the citizens of this country. It has worked.
Our States have said we can go farther, we can protect the LGBT community. They have and it has worked. Those who have said: Look, we are going to have problems because of religious organizations or we are going to have problems because of this group–that has not been the case.
Federalism has demonstrated it is now time to pass a national law to protect against those who discriminate in employment on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We need a national law.
I can give you many specific examples that have been shared with us. We could talk the numbers. We know the numbers. I want to speak about specific cases and to mention two people.
Kimya has a master’s degree in social work and nearly two decades of experience in the field. She was the manager of a unit of a long-term care facility for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. She enjoyed her job and was good at it but suffered through nearly a year of threatening messages, vandalism to her car, and slurs uttered in the halls. In 2003, she was fired, her supervisors telling her: “This would not be happening if you were not a lesbian.”
Next is the case of Linda. Linda is an attorney who relocated to this region when her partner accepted a faculty position with a local university. Linda was invited for a second interview with a local law firm. During the interview, Linda was asked why she was moving to this region, and she replied that her spouse had taken a position at a local university. The law firm asked Linda to come back for a final interview, which would include a dinner with all the partners and their spouses “to make sure we all got along.” At that point, Linda told one of the partners at the law firm that her spouse was a woman. Soon after, Linda was told that the firm would not hire a lesbian and she should not bother coming in for the third interview.
In Kimya’s and Linda’s cases, they live in States that do not have protection for the LGBT community, and therefore there was no way to address this wrong.
The legislation before us has been endorsed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights that represents over 200 civil rights, religious, labor, and women’s rights organizations. It has broad support. It is supported by the American people. It is the right thing to do. It represents our core values.
Our former colleague Senator Ted Kennedy said civil rights was the great unfinished business of America. We are on that path. The passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would be a major step forward to making us a more perfect union.
I urge my colleagues to support the legislation.
I yield the floor.