A.G. Schneiderman Leads 14-State Coalition Demanding Speaker Boehner Protect Rights Of LGBT Americans In The Workplace

Employment Non-Discrimination Act Would Protect All Americans From Discrimination That Could Jeopardize Their Livelihoods

AGs’ Letter Urges Speaker Boehner To Bring Historic Bill To The House Floor

NEW YORK – A coalition of 14 state attorneys general led by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (S.815) to the House floor for a vote. ENDA, which was passed by the U.S. Senate earlier this month, would ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals cannot be fired or denied employment solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. At this time, there is no federal anti-discrimination law that preserves these fundamental principles on behalf of LGBT Americans.

“Allowing for a vote on a bill that would make it illegal to fire someone from their job simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity should be an easy decision for Speaker Boehner. Not only is it supported by the vast majority of Americans and most of the business community, but it is the right thing to do. Equal opportunity for all should be a top priority for Congress and ENDA provides an historic opportunity to take one step closer to that goal,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The House of Representatives must do as the Senate has already done and take up this bill to guarantee that there is one set of rules and protections for all individuals, no matter who they are.”

In their letter, the attorneys general state that ENDA would end the uneven protections of equal justice under the law for LGBT Americans, which currently depend upon the states or localities in which they live. In 29 states, lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals can be fired or denied employment solely because of their sexual orientation. In 33 states, transgender individuals face these same risks to their employment and security because of their gender identity. For states that currently lack anti-discrimination statutes covering LGBT individuals, ENDA would provide an essential tool to the attorneys general to defend the rights of all constituents.

In addition, the attorneys general highlighted that the passage of ENDA would coincide with public opinion and the actions of the business community.

“Recent opinion polling indicates nearly three out of four Americans – 73 percent – support passage of ENDA, as do majorities in every single state,” the attorneys general wrote. “Furthermore, corporate America has largely accepted this as good policy: mMost Fortune 500 companies have adopted such internal anti-discrimination policies.”

States co-signing with New York on the letter to Speaker Boehner are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Schneiderman led a coalition of 15 states and the District of Columbia in filing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the successful effort to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 

Attorney General Schneiderman also successfully defended New York’s marriage equality law from legal challenge in New York State’s highest court. On October 23, 2012, the New York State Court of Appeals sided with A.G. Schneiderman’s office in a rejecting a challenge to the Marriage Equality Act.

Attorney General Schneiderman’s Civil Rights Bureau is committed to ensuring compliance with civil rights laws. To file a complaint, contact the Bureau at 212.416.8250 or Civil.Rights@ag.ny.gov.

The full text of today’s letter is below. (The letter can also be read here.)

November 18, 2013
The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker, United States House of Representatives
H. 232 – U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

On Thursday, November 7, 2013, the United States Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”). As the Attorneys General for the states of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, we respectfully request that you bring the bill to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.

Equal protection under the law is a fundamental American principle that transcends state and party lines. But this principle has yet to be reached for millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) Americans living across the country and in many of our states. In the absence of a federal anti-discrimination law, LGBT individuals are unevenly at risk of discrimination that could threaten their livelihoods, depending upon the states or localities in which they live. Today, in twenty-nine states, lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals can be fired or denied employment solely because of their sexual orientation. In thirty-three states, transgender individuals face these same risks to their employment and security because of their gender identity.

Passage of ENDA would be a historic step in remedying these ongoing moral and economic wrongs. It would also be in keeping with public opinion and the actions of the business community. Recent opinion polling indicates nearly three out of four Americans – 73% – support passage of ENDA, as do majorities in every single state. Furthermore, corporate America has largely accepted this as good policy: most Fortune 500 companies have adopted such internal anti-discrimination policies.

As the chief law enforcement officers for our states, we are tasked with promoting equal protection and equal opportunity for our residents. For those of us representing states that currently lack state anti-discrimination statutes covering LGBT individuals, ENDA is an essential tool that would further assist us in doing our jobs. For those of us representing states that do have such statutes, it has been our experience that these protections yield only positive benefits for our states, and the common arguments raised against ENDA – e.g., harm to businesses or frivolous lawsuits – have not materialized.

We hope you will consider these perspectives in the coming weeks and urge you to bring this historic bill to the floor for a vote.

Sincerely,

Eric T. Schneiderman
New York State Attorney General

Kamala Harris
California Attorney General

George Jepsen
Connecticut Attorney General

Beau Biden
Delaware Attorney General

David M. Louie
Hawaii Attorney General

Lisa Madigan
Illinois Attorney General

Tom Miller
Iowa Attorney General

Janet Mills
Maine Attorney General

Martha Coakley
Massachusetts Attorney General

Lori Swanson
Minnesota Attorney General 

Catherine Cortez Masto
Nevada Attorney General

Ellen F. Rosenblum
Oregon Attorney General

William Sorrell
Vermont Attorney General

Bob Ferguson
Washington Attorney General

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