Family Equality Council Submits Testimony Supporting Congressional House Committee Hearing on ENDA

September 23, 2009, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee
held a full committee hearing on an inclusive Employment
Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA would address discrimination in
the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or
refuse to promote an employee based on the person’s sexual
orientation or gender identity at companies with 15 or more
employees. The lead sponsors of the House bill are Representatives
Barney Frank (D-MA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Tammy Baldwin
(D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Michael Castle (R-DE), George Miller
(D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), Todd Platts (R-PA),
Rob Andrews (D-NJ), and Leonard Lance (R-NJ). The House bill was
introduced with on June 24 with 91 original co-sponsors and a
similar bill was introduced in the Senate on August 5.Witnesses
from the hearing testifying in support of the measure included U.S.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA); Hon.
Stuart J. Ishimaru, Acting Commissioner, U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission; William Eskridge, John A. Garver Professor
of Jurisprudence, Yale Law School; Vandy Beth Glenn, fired from her
Georgia state legislative job when she told her supervisor she was
transitioning from male to female; Rabbi David Saperstein,
director, the Religious Action Center; and Brad Sears, Executive
Director, Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.

ENDA is supported by a broad range of civil rights, religious,
civic and professional organizations, including the Leadership
Conference on Civil Rights, NAACP, AFL-CIO, Service Employees
International Union, AFSCME, National Education Association,
National Employment Lawyers Association, Anti-Defamation League,
Religious Action Center, Unitiarian Universalist Association,
United Church of Christ, American Civil Liberties Union, and many

Currently, federal law provides legal protection against employment
discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national
origin, age and disability, but not sexual orientation or gender
identity. In 29 states, it is legal to fire someone based on his
or her sexual orientation, and in 38 states, it is legal to fire
someone for being transgender.

In 2007, the House passed a version of ENDA that provided
protection on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender
identity, by a vote of 235 to 184.

Family Equality Council submitted written testimony to the House
Education and Labor Committee for inclusion in the Congressional
Record in support of ENDA, focusing on the unique harms that LGBT
families face because of workplace discrimination:


Testimony of

Jennifer Chrisler

On behalf of Family Equality Council



H.R. 3017, The Employment Non-Discrimination


Committee on Education and Labor

United States House of


Room 2175

Rayburn House Office Building

September 23, 2009


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:


On behalf of the thousands of families that
support Family Equality Council, the national organization working
to ensure equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
(LGBT) families by building community, changing hearts and minds,
and advancing social justice for all families, I am pleased to
submit written testimony expressing our support for the Employment
Non-Discrimination Act of 2009. I would like to thank especially
Chairman Miller, along with Ranking Member Kline, for convening
this hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3017)
(ENDA). It is imperative for this Committee and Congress to support
workplace fairness for all Americans by addressing the issue of
employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender
identity, and to act decisively to end employment discrimination by
passing ENDA.


The mission of Family Equality Council is to create and protect
happy, healthy families. At the foundation of a healthy family is
economic security, the ability to earn a living, the economic
stability to provide for a dependent partner and children. Each
year in the United States, however, Americans are denied job
opportunities, are terminated, or experience on-the-job
discrimination merely because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or
transgender (LGBT). This discrimination takes place at many
different types of employers, including private employers, local
governments, state governments, and companies large and small. Only
12 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that
specifically ban workplace discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity. Another nine states have laws that
ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, but do not have
clear gender identity protections. Right now, this patchwork of
state and local laws protects only 40% of the U.S. population from
employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender
identity; 60% of Americans live in jurisdictions without explicit
job protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, or
with protections that do not protect the LGBT community


Data from the 2000 U.S. Census shows that approximately 20% of LGBT
Americans are parents, who are raising over 270,000 children across
the U.S. Substantial concentrations of these families live in
Southern and Midwestern states, where they have limited or no
protection from workplace discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity. Yet, like other parents, LGBT
parents need to work to support themselves and their families. For
these families, workplace discrimination has devastating
consequences that reach beyond the well-being and economic survival
of individual LGBT workers to that of the partners and children who
depend upon them.


As a parent, I know what a struggle it would
be to navigate such vulnerability and still raise my twin boys to
be the happy, healthy, thriving pre-adolescents they currently are.
My organization serves parents all across the nation who face this
struggle. On their behalf, I appeal to members of this Committee to
put H.R. 3017 on the fast track to passage. Let not one more day go
by in the U.S. without protecting the ability of LGBT people to
contribute to the workforce and provide for their families without
fear of meritless discrimination.


In addition to its critical legal
implications, this legislation also has symbolic value that should
not go unrecognized. A member of my staff who has a gay dad who
came out to her when she was just ten years old speaks eloquently
about the personal shame and stigma she endured growing up in
Arizona with a parent who she knew was unequal to other dads in the
eyes of her state. Do not let children who have LGBT parents grow
up feeling that their country does not value the economic stability
and success of their parents and their families. America can do
better than that. We have a long tradition of valuing and
protecting individuals and families for the contributions they make
to the workforce, through such laws as Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, the model which ENDA closely follows.


The actions of this Committee today will send
a message about whether America is truly a land of opportunity for
all who work hard. LGBT people want to work and support their
families. Like other workers, they deserve to be judged on their
skills and qualifications, not on factors unrelated to job
performance, such as sexual orientation or gender identity. As a
parent, and on behalf of all the LGBT parents and children Family
Equality Council serves, I urge this Committee to act immediately
to send ENDA to the Full House.


I would like to thank Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Kline
again for bringing this much-needed visibility in Congress to
workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender
identity. I would also like to thank the Committee for holding this
hearing and for taking the time to review Family Equality
Council’s written testimony in support of the Employment
Non-Discrimination Act of 2009. On behalf of all our supporter
families, I appreciate your efforts to ensure workplace fairness
for all Americans. Please feel free to contact me regarding this
important measure at any time.




Jennifer Chrisler

Executive Director

Family Equality Council