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California State Senate, Assembly Urge Congress to Swiftly Pass Employment Non-Discrimination Act

(Sacramento)- The California Senate and Assembly passed last month calling on Congress to pass and President Obama to sign the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which extends federal employment laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

"It is important for California, the state with the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population in the nation, to weigh in on federal legislation that would expand protections for LGBT workers nationwide," said Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California. "We call on Congress and President Obama to pass and immediately sign into law a fully inclusive ENDA so that all workers are equally protected under the law."

The resolutions, introduced by Senator Mark DeSaulnier, Assemblymember Mike Eng and co-sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and the Transgender Law Center (TLC), put the California legislature on record in support of updating federal laws to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in the workplace. SR 27 passed by a 15-10 vote and HR 20 passed by a 44-24 vote.

"We commend California's lawmakers for continuing to show leadership when it comes to basic rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," said Masen Davis, Executive Director of TLC. "We regularly hear from transgender people who live in states without protective laws who have been fired simply because of who they are. It's time for all Americans to be treated fairly in the workplace."

Federal employment laws currently prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, military service and genetic information. ENDA would extend the same protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
"Too often LGBT workers do not report harassment or discrimination for fear of being fired," said Assemblymember Eng. "It is time our laws provide equal protections and security for all of our nation's workers."

While the federal government has protected federal employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, those protections do not prohibit discrimination against employees of private employers, employment agencies, and labor unions. California is one of only 12 states that currently have the requisite protections in place to shield individuals from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in both the private and public sectors. Nineteen states fail to address the matter entirely.

"Americans believe in providing equal employment opportunities to all LGBT people," said Senator DeSaulnier. "In California, we worked industriously to guarantee equal employment opportunities to all Californians by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Now we must extend the same basic protection under federal law."