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As nice as it was for President Obama to come out in support of same-sex marriage...and it was pleasant...people in the trans community have good cause to fear that focus will again shift away from something that would actually help more people:  protection from employment discrimination.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  In that capacity he has announced that he intends to hold a hearing on the Employment NonDiscrimination Act (ENDA) on June 12.

Every American deserves an equal opportunity to earn a good living, judged by their talent, ability and qualifications free from discrimination.  Workplace discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity is reprehensible and has no place in our nation.

This upcoming HELP Committee hearing will provide an excellent opportunity to build on the Committee’s previous work and help advance our shared goal of equal rights for all Americans.  I am hopeful that working together, we will reach a point where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons enjoy the same rights and protections, and full equality, as all our fellow Americans.

--Sen. Harkin

There is no word at this time whether the witnesses will actually include any transpeople.  At the last hearing about ENDA in 2009 Thomas Perez, assistant AG for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division testified in favor of the bill, but no transpeople were called to testify.

The announcement may be the result of pressure from the bill's sponsors, lead sponsor Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and cosponsors Mark Kirk (R-IL), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Susan Collins (R-ME).

As strong supporters of this legislation, we urge you to schedule a time for Committee members to consider this proposed legislation.  ENDA embodies the American ideal of fairness: employees should be judged on their skills and abilities in the workplace, and not on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The most difficult hurdle to be overcome in order to pass this law is probably the fact that the vast majority of Americans already believe we have employment protections.
What matters in the workplace is how you do your job but unfortunately no federal law bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  We encourage the Senate HELP Committee to schedule a hearing on this critical bill.

--Joe Solomonese, Human Rights Campaign

All Democrats on the committee are co-sponsors of the bill and Kirk is also on the committee, sothere should be no problem with reporting the legislation to the floor of the Senate.

Some people would say it stands absolutely no chance of passing the House, of course…or even getting out of committee.

Many transpeople were extremely displeased when DADT was prioritized over ENDA in the last Congress…since DADT could have been repealed through the courts, but ENDA cannot come from that source.

The left side of the committee consists of Chair Harkin (IA), Mikulski (MD), Bingaman (NM), Murray (WA), Sanders (I) (VT), Casey, Jr. (PA), Hagan (NC), Merkley (OR), Franken (MN), Bennet (CO), Whitehouse (RI), and Blumenthal (CT).

On the right are Ranking Member Enzi (WY), Alexander (TN), Burr (NC), Isakson (GA), Paul (KY), Hatch (UT), McCain (AZ), Roberts (KS), Murkowski (AK), and Kirk (IL).

Contacting them about the bill could never start too early.

The nuts and bolts of equality never gather as much attention as the bells and whistles, but marriage equality doesn't do much good for people who can't find employment or housing or safely use public amenities.  Nobody want to marry a homeless, jobless git.

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