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Senate panel hears testimony on ENDA

WASHINGTON – A Senate panel today conducted a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which is a crucial piece of legislation that would provide workplace fairness and equality.

This morning’s hearing featured testimony from:

* M. V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA and director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

* Kylar Broadus, founder, Trans People of Color Coalition

* Samuel Bagenstos, professor of law, University of Michigan Law School

* Ken Charles, vice president of diversity and inclusion, General Mills

* Craig Parshal of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, the only witness to speak in opposition to ENDA

During the hearing, according to tweets from The Human Rights Campaign (HRC):

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) called LGBT discrimination “morally wrong” and said “we must end it.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) praised the advances by her home state of Washington, but lamented that millions of other Americans are not protected by law from workplace discrimination.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) touted a letter of support of ENDA from more than 90 companies aligned with the Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, and noted that inclusive laws in Iowa have not harmed businesses in his home state.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said that Minnesota has had workplace protection laws since 1993 and that the “sky hasn’t fallen.”

The Senate Republicans serving on this panel, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, failed to attend the hearing, according to GetEqual.

The HRC applauded the panel for reviving ENDA.

“The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is critical so that Americans have a fair shake in the workplace today and so that no young person must choose between being who they are and striving for their strongest aspirations for the future,” said Chad Griffin, HRC president. “ENDA must be passed because, for too many LGBT people in this country, that dream remains out of reach.”

ENDA would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently such protections exist in only 21 states and the District of Columbia for sexual orientation and 16 states and D.C. for gender identity.

Americans overwhelmingly support LGBT workplace non-discrimination laws.

According to a November 2011 poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for HRC, 77% of voters support protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment. The support for employment protections defies conventional political wisdom, reaching across party and ideological lines. 70% of self-identified Republicans and 67% of conservatives support anti-discrimination laws. Support is strong even among groups who tend to be less supportive of LGBT issues, such as seniors (69% among voters over age 65), those with a high school degree or less (68%), observant Christians (77%), born-again Christians (74%), and residents of the Deep South (72%).