Americans for Workplace Opportunity, the bipartisan campaign to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, is kicking off a national field and advocacy effort to build bipartisan support and momentum for the bill. The campaign played a central role in the historic, bipartisan passage of ENDA through the U.S. Senate last year. The bill, which would protect gay and transgender Americans from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, enjoys support from Republicans and Democrats alike in both houses of Congress, as well as support from nearly 70 percent of Americans – including 56 percent of Republicans.
Americans for Workplace Opportunity will spend more than $2 million in bipartisan funding on the effort to pass ENDA, and is on the ground in 30 key congressional districts in 21 states across the country. These states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for most Americans means the opportunity to work hard at a decent job and earn a living. These are fundamental Americans values and they are why a supermajority of Americans from all backgrounds supports ENDA,” said campaign spokesperson Deborah Pryce, who championed ENDA while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives until 2009. “Republicans and Democrats joined together in the Senate last fall to pass ENDA because they knew it was the right thing to do. We hope the House will act on this bill, and we look forward to continuing to engage with Americans across the country and across the aisle so they can speak out and send a clear message to their Representatives about the importance of ENDA.”
Americans for Workplace Opportunity is led by a diverse and bipartisan Steering Committee composed of organizations that collectively represent millions of Americans. Steering Committee members include: the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Unity Fund, Communications Workers of America, the Human Rights Campaign, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Log Cabin Republicans, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Service Employees International Union.
A national survey conducted for the campaign last fall by Republican pollster Alex Lundry found that a shockingly high number of Americans – 8 in 10 – mistakenly believe federal workplace protections for gay and transgender Americans already exist. Lundry’s survey found that nearly 70 percent of Americans – including 56 percent of Republicans – back workplace protections. His survey also projected support for ENDA to be above 50 percent in every single state.
ENDA was introduced in the House last year by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Republican co-sponsors to date include Reps. Charlie Dent (R-PA), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Richard Hanna (R-NY) and Jon Runyan (R-NJ).
ENDA passed the Senate by a historic 64-32 vote last November. Ten Republican Senators were among those voting for final passage: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Patrick Toomey (R-PA). Prior to its passage in the Senate, ENDA was approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in July 2013, by a bipartisan vote of 15-7.
Many of the nation’s leading businesses back ENDA as well. More than 100 major businesses participate in the Human Rights Campaign’s Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness, including: Alcoa, Caesars Entertainment, Charles Schwab, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, Ernst & Young, General Mills, Groupon, Hershey, MillerCoors Brewing, Nationwide, Time Warner, US Airways and Wells Fargo. Additionally, 91 percent of Fortune 500 companies have sexual orientation non-discrimination policies, while 61 percent of Fortune 500s have gender identity non-discrimination policies.