ENDA stands for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act , federal legislation that would prevent employers from firing, harassing or discriminating against LGBTQ employees based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Since 1974, (the first being The Equality Act of 1974), there have been bills introduced in Congress that attempted to ban discrimination in everything from matters of housing to employment based on sexual orientation, relationship status and sex (classified by some as as ‘gender and sexual minorities’), but none of them have been trans-inclusive in their statement and these attempts have infamously omitted gender identity in their clauses.
In 1994, the focus of the bills streamlined and ENDA was born with a singular focus: employee discrimination. It was tailored using existing civil rights laws as a model, featuring Title VII from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, it still exempts small businesses, religious organizations and the military from the provisions… because really, we would be trampling on certain Very Important People’s divine right to discriminate against us. If it’s mandated by God or the military, treating others like second class citizens is completely justified. Fuck yeah, America! Fuck yeah, freedom!
Speaking of discrimination, it doesn’t just happen in the big bad heterosexist world. Oh no, the failure to bring ENDA past the committee in 2007 was blamed on the inclusion of gender identity, so it was struck from the bill when Senator Barney Frank pushed a second attempt.
That’s right, when in doubt, remember: blame the trans people!
It sent a bittersweet message when the House passed the non-inclusive version, but the Senate didn’t even bring it up to a vote, insisting that gender identity be included in all future versions. This is actually quite positive, considering many members of the LGBTQ community exhibit gender-nonconforming behavior that would fall under the ‘gender identity’ umbrella.
Currently, discrimination laws are handled on a state-by-state basis. It is legal to fire or refuse to hire a person based on sexual orientation in 29 states and it is legal to refuse to hire or fire a person based on gender identity in 33 states in the USA currently. With the conservative house we face due to the outcome of the last election it is unlikely that ENDA will be passed, even though 88% of Fortune 500 companies have provisions against LGBTQ discrimination (inclusive of gender identity) as of 2013, and 73% of voters supported an inclusive ENDA in a 2011 poll. In 2013, two-thirds of all voters (Republicans and Democrats alike) supported the passage of a federal law to protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination.
Our federal officials exist (in a perfect world) to make our collective desires and needs brought to light. They clearly need to get with the times. Luckily, you can do something about that.
Find out how to help ENDA pass here.
Illustration by Gabriel Brenner