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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Co-Sponsor ENDA


By Jacob CombsHarry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will sign on as the 50th co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Huffington Post‘s Jennifer Bendery reported yesterday, giving the bill a big boost in advance of a possible vote later this year.  From the Huffington Post:

“No one should face discrimination in their workplace based on sexual orientation,” Reid said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “It’s time to make fairness the law of the land. That is why I am co-sponsoring this legislation and I will do everything I can to ensure that it passes the Senate.”

Reid’s announcement makes him the 50th cosponsor of ENDA. He said earlier this week that he expects it to reach the Senate floor “soon.”

Despite major advances for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community in the past couple of years — including the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and lawmakers announcing support for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act — ENDA has stagnated. It’s been reintroduced in several sessions of Congress and has gotten some hearings, but it hasn’t had a vote on the House or Senate floor since November 2007, when it passed the House 235-184. It was introduced in this Congress by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in the House, and by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in the Senate.

Sen. Reid has been supportive of ENDA in the past, but has generally taken the position that the majority leader should not co-sponsor bills.  Reid’s co-sponsorship of ENDA is an important move, keeping the bill in the news, raising its public visibility and getting it closer to the 60-vote threshold that will likely be necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster.

As Metro Weekly‘s Justin Snow reported, President Obama addressed LGBT equality last night during a Pride Month reception at the White House.  In his remarks, Obama underscored the importance of passing ENDA:

“In 34 states, you can be fired just because of who you are or who you love. That’s wrong. We’ve got to change it.  I want to sign that bill. We need to get it done now. And I think we can make that happen — because after the last four and a half years, you can’t tell me things can’t happen.”

The president made no mention of an ENDA executive order, which would ban federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Obama has expressed support for the executive order in the past, although the White House has recently been silent on the matter.  The president could announce and sign such an order on any day.

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