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Next stop is the House for federal sexual orientation bill

November 07, 2013

With all of the recent legislative focus on the rights of same-sex individuals and couples, many people might assume that federal law protects members of the LGBT community from employment discrimination. The truth is that federal lawmakers have yet to officially prohibit gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.

LGBT activists are hoping that this will all change through the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The act recently passed in the Senate on Monday, Nov. 4. The Human Rights Campaign called the Senate’s approval “tremendous momentum” for the battle over gay rights.

The bill will move on for a vote in the House of Representatives next. This piece of legislation would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federally protected classes. While advocates may have their hopes, some worry that the House won’t be so quick to agree with the Senate.

For those in New Jersey and 20 other states, at least as of July 22, protection is already in place for workers that are employed within their jurisdictional lines. Of those states, 17 and the District of Columbia have laws that protect against both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. The other four states cover only sexual orientation discrimination.

Although only 21 states have chosen to enact legislation that prohibits this type of employment discrimination, a study conducted at Columbia University shows that there is a majority support in all 50 states for this type of legislation. In fact, the state with the lowest support, Mississippi, still showed a 63 percent approval rating.

Source: The Washington Post, “Forget Congress: 21 states already protect gays in the workplace,” Niraj Chokshi, Nov. 5, 2013

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