Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney On the Introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:
The AFL-CIO strongly supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which Representative Barney Frank introduced today in the 111th Congress. This common sense legislation would bar discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
In far too many states, it is still absolutely legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. While federal law protects working people from firing or penalization based on race, religion, national origin, gender and/or physical ability, no federal law exists to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that in 30 states, it is legal to fire someone for being lesbian, gay or bisexual. In 37 states, it is legal to fire someone because they are transgender.
Because transgender people are so frequently vulnerable to employment discrimination, the AFL-CIO applauds their full protection in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009. It is just plain wrong for anyone to discriminate against or fire a worker based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and this legislation gives Congress the chance to make all such shocking discrimination illegal across boundaries.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is inconsistent with the principles of equal opportunity and equal employment that our movement has fought for. With the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers across this nation would have protection from workplace discrimination, protections that so many workers receive now only because of their union contracts.
The AFL-CIO is proud to stand behind this significant civil rights legislation that is urgently needed and long overdue. We look forward to working with others in the labor and civil rights communities to move this issue forward on Capitol Hill.