Senate Panel Advances Trans-inclusive ENDA in 15-7 Bipartisan Vote

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (a.k.a. the HELP Committee) easily approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) this morning. Republican Senators Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Orrin Hatch (UT) joined all Democrats on the committee in moving the bill to the Senate floor by a 15 to 7 vote.

Today’s committee vote is the first since 2002 on ENDA and is also the first-time a committee in either chamber of Congress has approved a version of ENDA that protects gay, lesbian and bisexual and transgender people from workplace discrimination, according to the Washington Blade.

“Qualified workers should not be turned away or have to fear losing their livelihood for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications, skills or performance,” said Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). “Let’s not mince words: such practices are un-American. They should have no plans in any American workplace.”

MSNBC reports:

Going into this week, ENDA had 53 co-sponsors. With Murkowski and Hatch on board — their votes were in doubt as recently as Monday — that appears to bring the new total to 55. Proponents will obviously still need a few more votes to circumvent conservative obstructionism, but with four Republican votes (and counting), 60 is hardly an unrealistic goal at this point.

The House, with a radicalized GOP majority, will certainly be a heavier lift, but nearly two decades after ENDA was initially introduced, the legislation ‘s odds are improving.

A Senate source confirms this morning that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), an ENDA co-sponsor, intends to bring the bill to the floor “soon.”