WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Monday that he will bring legislation banning anti-LGBT employment discrimination to the floor for consideration before Thanksgiving.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban most employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, was passed out of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee with bipartisan support earlier this year.
Reid, in announcing the plans for this work session, said the Senate would be considering the legislation.
"When the Senate convenes at 2 p.m. today, Sen. Reid will announce that he will bring ENDA to the floor this work period, which ends just before Thanksgiving," Reid adviser Faiz Shakir told BuzzFeed prior to the session. "Exact floor timing remains to be determined based on how votes go this week, but it could come up as early as next week."
In order to pass the legislation, it likely will require 60 votes to meet the threshold to overcome any filibuster attempt from opposition — a threshold advocates say they are "optimistic" they will secure by the time any vote is taken.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, the Senate's lead sponsor of the legislation, told BuzzFeed, "I thank Majority Leader Reid for committing to bring ENDA to the floor this work period. Americans understand that it's time to make sure our LGBT friends and family are treated fairly and have the same opportunities. Now it's time for our laws to catch up. People should be judged at work on their ability to do the job, period."
HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin has long supported the billing, saying in a statement Monday, "It is time for Congress to remedy this inequality, and I am pleased to see that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will soon come before the full Senate for consideration. I urge my colleagues to do what is right—for LGBT Americans and for our economy—and pass this critical civil rights bill."
The Human Rights Campaign, which has been one of the leading advocacy groups pressing the legislation for more than a decade, praised the move.
"We're gratified that Sen. Reid is bringing this important bill to the floor. Over the course of the past six months, we've worked hard to ensure that senators know their constituents support this bill. We're in the homestretch of securing the 60 votes necessary and remain optimistic that the support will be there when we need it," HRC vice president for communications Fred Sainz said.
Freedom to Work's Tico Almeida pressed his group's work on securing support from Republicans.
"After months of meeting with Republican senators and their senior staff, we're confident we have the 60 votes to defeat any attempted filibuster. But we're keeping the pressure up as the vote approaches," he told BuzzFeed.
National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling, however, made it clear that her organization expects any Senate vote to be the end of the road for the legislation in the current Congress.
"Right now, we have the best chance ever to pass ENDA through one of the chambers, which is going to be an important step for us to getting ENDA passed when it's finally able to move in the House." Keisling added, "Because of all the work people have done over the years at the grassroots level and on Capitol Hill, we're optimistic that the Senate vote will go our way. The forthcoming Senate vote will change the playing field once we have a friendlier House that can tackle ENDA."
[Updated at 2:10 p.m. to include note that Reid announced the consideration and at 2:40 p.m. to include Keisling's comments.]
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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