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U.S. Senate committee approves bill banning employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP Committee) voted to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA would make employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity illegal. ENDA passed with bi-partisan support. All of the Democrats on the HELP Committee voted for it and three Republicans also voted for it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he expects to bring ENDA up for a vote on the Senate floor later this year. It is unclear at this point whether John Boehner (R-OH), who is Speaker of the House of Representatives, would bring ENDA up for a vote in the House of Representatives.

“It’s mostly because of people coming out to their families, reporters and churches,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, about the progress on ENDA. “Everybody knows a gay person now, and more and more people know a trans person. It’s an issue that 20 years from now, opponents are going to be ashamed to have opposed.”

Maine’s entire congressional delegation (Sen. Collins, Sen. King, Rep. Michaud, and Rep. Pingree) supports ENDA. While Maine already has a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the majority of states do not.