On Wednesday July 10, the Senate Housing, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is set to mark up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for the first time in over 10 years. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (drafted in the conference room of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism) prohibited discrimination in the workplace based on race, sex, religion, ethnicity and national origin – and later laws barred discrimination based on pregnancy and disability – there is no federal law that protects the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace. ENDA would fix that gap and finally make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, demote or fail to promote someone based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Call your Senator in advance of this hearing and tell them how important you think this legislation is!
Along with marriage equality and LGBT rights more broadly, support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is rapidly growing. The bill now has 53 co-sponsors in the Senate - including Republican Senators Mark Kirk (IL) and Susan Collins (ME) - and 177 co-sponsors in the House including three Republican Representatives. Support within the business world is growing as well with more than 90 major corporations publically endorsing the bill, which is no surprise considering that 88% of Fortune 500 companies already have protections based on sexual orientation and 57% have protections for gender identity. Religious groups are speaking out as well; nearly 50 religious organizations signed onto a letter to the members of the HELP committee urging them to vote for ENDA.
According to recent polls 73% of Americans support the workplace protections promised in this legislation (another survey found that 9 in 10 voters thought these protections already exist). These numbers help to emphasize the deep resonance ENDA holds with both our American and religious values. It ensures that our workplaces operate as meritocracies, asking that people are judged based on their ability to perform a job, not on their personal characteristics. It ensures that our society recognizes the fundamental truth of our tradition, that all people are created in the in the image of God.
This is why, having played a role in the initial drafting of the bill nearly 20 years ago, the Religious Action Center and the broader Reform Movement remain one of the leading religious supporters of this critical legislation. Recently, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism coordinated a letter of support for the values of fairness and labor equality signed by 50 diverse faith groups representing 9 national religious denominations. The goal this week is to bring that support to bear before the Senate HELP Committee’s historic action on Wednesday morning. You can help by calling your Senator and telling them that your values as a Jew and as an American compel you to support ENDA.
Join the faith community's call-in campaign for ENDA. Text "ENDAnow" to 877-877 to receive text instructions and updates on the bill, or dial 1-888-897-0174 to hear talking points, enter your zip code and connect directly to your Senator.
Benny Witkovsky is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.