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ENDA: essential step toward ending LGBT discrimination

Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 17:09

You can’t be fired because of your race or religion, even your chosen political beliefs are not sufficient grounds for a pink slip. But apparently your sexual orientation and gender identity are.

Throughout most of our nation, it is perfectly legal for an employer to fire someone strictly because he or she is homosexual or transgender. There would be no court case to follow the termination, no discussion of discrimination or settlement in a court of law. It would stand as admissible bigotry.

Fortunately, in Allegheny County there are laws to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members of the workforce from discrimination, but who knows where we’ll end up after graduation? Not all citizens are free to travel their own country and work safely in any state they please.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would correct this sad state of affairs, and its supporters have been looking to do so for almost forty years.

Non-discrimination legislation for homosexuals was first introduced to Congress in 1974. In 1994, ENDA made its first appearance as a bill that extended workplace protection to homosexual and transgender employees. Since then, every Congress has voted on ENDA except for the 109th. This past June, a committee finally passed ENDA to be voted on by the Senate.

It’s a huge step in the LGBT Civil Rights movement, but as I celebrate and look forward to the path ahead, certain awareness keeps me from fully relishing in our success. This is not enough for the community to move forward as equals.  

It is sad that it’s considered progress that our representatives are finally getting around to looking at other human beings as equal. How can we call this an honest victory when this shouldn’t even be an issue requiring federal legislation, let alone legislation that took four decades to be acknowledged?

In Pennsylvania, the state Senate and House are not able to vote on pending statewide non-discrimination bills. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) chairs the House Government Committee and is currently holding House Bill 300 and Senate Bill 300 hostage.

It speaks to our societal progression, and it’s not saying anything good. Citizens – humans – require protection from discrimination in their own nation. They do not feel safe in their employment that they work hard for, that they require to earn a living. Americans are living in fear of losing their jobs based on whom they love and it has taken us as a nation almost 40 years to do anything about it.

It took me over a decade to come out as a member of the LGBT community because of this kind of slow societal adaptation. I hid myself because there is not equality and acceptance for all in America, because there is a civil rights movement happening beneath Americans’ feet and we’re not even hearing about it.

We seem to forget that Congress represents us, that we can contact senators like Pat Toomey and let them know what legislation we support. There are organizations such as The Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Workplace Equality working for LGBT rights and seeking active volunteers. We have the opportunity to decide where we go from here.

Now I stand as an awkward adult in the generation that wields the future trying to spread the word that Americans’ unalienable rights are still being violated in the year 2013, and we have the power to change that before 2053 rolls around.

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