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Senator Jeff Merkley (D. OR) will be introducing some very important LGBT related legislation on Thursday:

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is set to be introduced in both chambers of Congress on Thursday, according to multiple sources, but without major changes that were previously under consideration.
The bill will be reintroduced in the House by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the most senior openly gay member of the chamber, who’s taking over the legislation now that former Rep. Barney Frank has retired. In the Senate, the legislation will be reintroduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). The lawmakers’ offices confirmed they would introduce ENDA concurrently on Thursday.
The Senate version of the bill will have five original sponsors: Merkley and lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) will be two Democrats, Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) will be two Republicans and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) will round out the quintet.

The number of original co-sponsors in the House remains to be seen. Conchita Cruz, a Polis spokesperson, said many House members have told her boss “they want to make sure that they are included” as original co-sponsors. - Washington Blade, 4/23/13

Here's a little background info on ENDA:

ENDA would federally prohibit discrimination in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and it has remained bottled up in Congress for a very long time. But Merkley and others believe ENDA’s moment may have finally arrived in the Senate – in part because of the dramatic shift in public opinion on gay rights, one typified by the sudden stampede of Democratic (and two Republican) Senators who have come out for marriage equality this year.

“We definitely see a tremendous amount of discussion of marriage equality,” Merkley told me today. “The momentum in that area will also be reflected in this area of employment. I feel we have reached a turning point.”

ENDA has remained bottled up in committee, despite the fact that it has over 40 co-sponsors, including two Republicans, Mark Kirk and Susan Collins. But Senator Tom Harkin, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has vowed to move the bill forward this year. Most observers expect that it will eventually come to the floor for a vote. “We’re ready to roll,” Merkley said. - Washington Post, 4/23/13

Some gay activists like Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, will be putting the pressure on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to hold a vote on ENDA ASAP:
“ENDA had a recent committee hearing where not a single Republican senator bothered to show up to express any opposition or even ask questions about the drafting of the bill, so I think Chairman Harkin should schedule the committee vote on ENDA as soon as possible in May or June,” Almeida said. “It would be great to have ENDA teed up to go to the Senate floor in July.”

Almeida said the time period immediately after Supreme Court decisions are expected on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act would make July an excellent opportunity for a floor vote on ENDA, which would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination.

“After the Supreme Court rules in the Windsor marriage case, many right-wingers are going to denounce marriage equality for same-sex couples, but claim that they don’t believe in discrimination against LGBT Americans,” Almeida said. “That’s the time when we should call some of those bluffs by putting ENDA on the Senate floor and letting all 100 senators go on the record about whether hardworking Americans should get fired just because of who they are or who they love.” - Washington Blade, 4/23/13

Other gay activists aren't as optimistic about the Senate passing ENDA and want President Obama to make an executive decision on ENDA:

After lobbying successfully for Obama to weigh in against Proposition 8, a California measure prohibiting same-sex marriage that is now before the Supreme Court, gay rights activists argue executive action is the best way to keep up the momentum.

“Now the priority for our community is definitely continued progress on getting that executive order out of the administration,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign.

An order barring discrimination by federal contractors would apply to about 20 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to HRC. It would make it illegal for companies with U.S. government contracts to fire or avoid hiring employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity, just as it now is with race.

Federal action is necessary, activists say, because state laws are inconsistent. They say it is legal to fire someone for being gay in 29 states and for being transgender in 34 states.

Some activists are skeptical that Obama is backing away from executive action because he believes Congress will act. They think he is wary of upsetting the business community by forcing a new regulation on it.

“This Congress is not going to pass ENDA, and they know that,” said one activist, speaking on condition of anonymity. - New York Metro, 4/14/13

Merkley and Almeida are also focused on addressing in ENDA are the religious exemption as well as the area of disparate impact:
Jamal Raad, a Merkley spokesperson, said “there will be a few changes to update the language” on ENDA, but said he couldn’t provide actual legislative text until reintroduction on Thursday.

Almeida said another change he’s seeking for ENDA as it progresses through the legislative process is an update to the bill in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling in Gross v. FBL Financial. That 2009 decision raised the bar for the standard of proof in making certain employment discrimination claims.

“If this legal loophole does not get fixed before ENDA becomes law, there will be gay and transgender victims of discrimination with meritorious cases who are denied justice because of the unequal standard that the conservative activists on the Supreme Court created a few years ago,” Almeida said. “Gay and transgender plaintiffs deserve to have the same standard of proof applied to their cases as plaintiffs alleging racial or religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”
Almeida said the fix would be along the lines of the bipartisan legislation introduced by Harkin and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) known as the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. That bill hasn’t yet been reintroduced in the 113th Congress.

“Especially since Chairman Harkin is the author of the bi-partisan legislation to address the Gross case, I’m hoping that he and the committee staff will close this loophole when ENDA goes to mark-up,” Almeida said. - Washington Blade, 4/23/13

Merkley has been one of the lead Senators pushing for action and says that now is the time to act on ENDA:
“If you support gay marriage, but you’re still not making the case that we should end discrimination, then you’re still essentially leaving in place a world in which LGBT Americans don’t have complete fair access to the job world,” Merkley said. “That makes a real difference in people’s lives. There’s little else in life that’s as important to the rhythm and well-being of self and family as access to employment.”

Merkley insists the momentum in the culture will transfer to the Senate. “As folks have been wrestling with these issues of LGBT fairness, certainly having non-discrimination in employment is critical to equality under the Constitutional vision of the opportunity to pursue happiness,” he said.

Speaking of his fellow Senators, Merkley added: “History is moving quickly, and they should join it.” - Washington Post, 4/23/13

If you want to put pressure on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to vote to pass ENDA, feel free to contact any of the following Senators who sit on the committee:

Tom Harkin (D. IA): (202) 224-3254

Barbara Mikulski (D. MD): (202) 224-4654

Patty Murray (D. WA): (202) 224-2621

Bernie Sanders (I VT): (202) 224-5141

Bob Casey (D. PA): (202) 224-6324

Kay Hagan (D. NC): (202) 224-6342

Al Franken (D. MN): (202) 224-5641

Michael Bennet (D. CO): (202) 224-5852

Sheldon Whitehouse (D. RI): (202) 224-2921

Tammy Baldwin (D. WI): (202) 224-5653

Chris Murphy (D. CT): (202) 224-4041

Elizabeth Warren (D. MA): (202) 224-4543

Lamar Alexander (R. TN): (202) 224-4944

Mike Enzi (R. WY): (202) 224-3424

Richard Burr (R. NC): (202) 224-3154

Johnny Isakson (R. GA): (202) 224-3643

Rand Paul (R. KY): (202) 224-4343

Orrin Hatch (R. UT): (202) 224-5251

Pat Roberts (R. KS): (202) 224-4774

Lisa Murkowski (R. AK): (202) 224-6665

Mark Kirk (R. IL): (202) 224-2854

Tim Scott (R. SC): (202) 224-6121

And how about thanking Senator Merkley for continuously looking out for LGBT rights and donate to his 2014 re-election campaign:

Originally posted to pdc on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Koscadia, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, LGBT Kos Community, Kossacks for Marriage Equality, Milk Men And Women, Progressive Policy Zone, Dailykos Kossacks For Action, Angry Gays, Daily Kos Oregon, and PDX Metro.

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