US: House Democrats seek vote on ENDA

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Wednesday, a discharge petition was filed by four US House Democrats in an attempt to force a vote of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act by the end of the congressional term.

The bill, which outlaws employer discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, was passed by the US Senate last November and is cosponsored by 206 members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans.

Colorado Representative Jared Polis, who is leading the effort, is looking to override Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner’s refusal to allow the legislation to be brought to a vote.

A discharge petition, which will bypass Boehner, must collect signature from at least 218 members of the House to force a vote.

Polis, who is confident that ENDA would pass if brought to the floor, told The Advocate that a discharge petition is taking a “bottoms-up rather than a top-down” approach.

He said: “So we’re going around the speaker, since he has refused to allow a vote. [We plan] to force a simple vote on employment nondiscrimination, to protect LGBT Americans from being fired just because of who they love or who they are.”

While Republicans claim religious exemptions in the bill are too narrow, six LGBT rights organisations pulled their support of ENDA this past summer, saying that the religious exemptions currently in place could allow businesses to continue to discriminate against LGBT employees.

Vice President Joe Biden has previously stated that it’s outrageous that ENDA is still even being debated.

 In July, Barack Obama signed an Executive Order banning workplace discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The order however only applies to federal contractors.