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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 15, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 11
It's ENDA Time! Activists sound alarm about workplace discrimination
Section One
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It's ENDA Time! Activists sound alarm about workplace discrimination

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Three years after first taking action in the halls of Congress to push for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), activists from GetEQUAL - a national civil rights organization urgently pushing for the full equality of LGBT Americans - are taking action again, demanding that the Senate vote on a fully-inclusive ENDA and that President Obama sign an Executive Order barring federal contractors from discriminating against current or prospective employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

GetEQUAL activist Ellen Sturtz interrupted the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing March 14, asking Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) when he was going to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act through the committee for a full Senate floor vote.

According to GetEQUAL spokesperson Filipe Sousa-Rodriguez, Harkin responded that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is the lead on ENDA and questions should be directed to him.

GetEQUAL immediately went to Merkley's office and asked the same question, then called on the organization's community of supporters to place calls to Merkley's office to ask when ENDA would be introduced.

In California, Texas, and Florida, activists are pressing the message that the time for a solution to the urgent problem of employment discrimination is now.

LGBTs NOT NOW PROTECTED
On March 18, 2010, GetEQUAL activists simultaneously interrupted the House Education and Labor Committee and staged sit-ins in then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi's D.C. and San Francisco offices, calling on the House to pass ENDA and to end the suffering of LGBT Americans who suffer from workplace discrimination across the country. There is currently no federal law that protects LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination before, during, or after their employment.

According to Sousa-Rodriguez, Thursday's actions across the country are meant to reinforce the urgency of that original call three years ago, and to focus attention on both the Senate and the White House - where action can be taken immediately to move this issue forward in both the legislative and executive branches.

'Three years ago, we went directly to the Speaker of the House and called on Congress to make good on its promises to end the economic hardship of LGBT Americans,' said Robin McGehee, executive director of GetEQUAL. 'Congress failed us three years ago, and thousands of LGBT Americans have suffered as a result. Now is the time to finally push forward on signing an Executive Order that would stem the tide of this suffering, and to vote on ENDA in the Senate for the first time in almost two decades. The time for change is now.'

ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES
'Workplace discrimination is standing in the way of LGBTQ Americans being able to fully contribute to the American economy and to fully participate in the American dream,' said Heather Cronk, managing director of GetEQUAL. 'Across this country, LGBT Americans have to make decisions each day about what to say in the workplace, how honest to be about their lives and families, how to interact with co-workers, whether to mention their families during the interview process - all because there are no federal protections against workplace discrimination. This lack of protections is unfair and un-American, and we're looking to the Senate and the White House to solve this problem now.'

More information on the background and history of workplace discrimination and proposed remedies to this problem, dating back to 1974, can be found at www.getequal.org/endatimeline.

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