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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to protect gay workers

Today's post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from

IN THE politically charged election year of 1996 — the same year the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed both houses of Congress with veto-proof margins — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) reached the Senate floor and was defeated by a single vote.

Reading the tea leaves then, it might have seemed that employment discrimination against gay workers would become illegal long before 17 years would pass. It was same-sex marriage that seemed unlikely. But a nation that has evolved rapidly toward supporting marriage equality continues to drag its feet on workforce fairness. The rejection of ENDA, a version of which was proposed as far back as the mid-1970s, has become something of a ritual: The act has been introduced in every Congress since 1994, save one.

Recently, however, there have been promising signs. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved ENDA by a 2 to 1 margin, with support from all Democrats and from Republicans Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Especially in a year when the Supreme Court has overturned a key part of DOMA and civil rights groups have launched a major campaign for ENDA, that bodes well for the act’s appearance on the Senate floor in the near future.

In the meantime, President Obama could sign an executive order that would immediately protect gay and transgender employees of federal contractors from workplace discrimination.

Those contractors, which employ...

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