The Employment Nondiscrimination Act ("ENDA") is legislation that has been introduced and never passed in Congress for over two decades. ENDA would make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees and applicants on the basis of their sexual orientation and sexual identity in the terms and conditions of their employment, inter alia, and Democratic Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, despite a huge uphill battle with a Republican-controlled Congress, will propose a much broader, supercharged version of ENDA aimed at preventing discrimination against LGBT Americans, not just in employment but also with regard to public accommodations, housing, jury service and financial transactions. Merkley hopes to have a bill, complete with bipartisan co-sponsors, ready for introduction in four to six months.
There is a huge misconception amongst the American public that such a law already exists at the federal level, but such is not the case. Twenty-one states currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and 18 of those, as well as the District of Columbia, also include gender identity. State lawmakers in places like Florida, Virginia and Utah are gearing up to fight for such measures in the coming session, while lawmakers in Michigan are currently in the throes of that debate. Luckily for Wisconsin residents, they are protected against such discrimination under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act.
In 2013, ENDA reached a historic milestone, passing the Senate in a bipartisan vote 64-32. Though the House did not take up the bill, Merkley says it helped propel President Barack Obama to issue an executive order in June that created LGBT nondiscrimination protections for roughly 28 million federal contractors and employees.