Historic, Bipartisan Vote Sends Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the Senate Floor | American Civil Liberties Union

WASHINGTON – The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions today adopted the Employment Non-Discrimination Act by a bipartisan vote of 15-7. ENDA would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most American workplaces.

“Coming on the heels of the landmark Supreme Court marriage rulings, today’s strong, bipartisan vote in favor of expanding workplace non-discrimination protections to include those who are LGBT is yet another sign that the tide has turned,” said Ian Thompson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative representative. “Advocates have been working for nearly 40 years to pass these basic protections to ensure that all American workers, who stand side-by-side in the workplace and contribute with equal measure in their jobs, will stand on the same equal footing under the law. In 2013, it is completely unacceptable to force individuals to hide who they are out of fear of losing their livelihood.”

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Historic, Bipartisan Vote Sends Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the Senate Floor | American Civil Liberties Union.

Senate HELP Committee approves Employment Non-Discrimination Act; protects gays and transgender works – Jacksonville Business Journal

A Senate committee approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act by a 15-7 vote this morning, giving gay Americans a victory in their long fight against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“We finally got it out of committee,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs theSenate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “It has been a long time coming.”

Harkin said Senate leaders have indicated could be brought up in the full Senate for debate sometime this fall.

The legislation would prohibit employers from firing or refusing to hire people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity — extending workplace protections that already apply to race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability.

Nearly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation and 57 percent of these large corporations also ban discrimination based on gender identity.

But this form of workplace discrimination is not against federal law, and it’s legal in 28 states.

via Senate HELP Committee approves Employment Non-Discrimination Act; protects gays and transgender works – Jacksonville Business Journal.

OP-ED: Murkowski Shares Thoughts on Marriage Equality with Alaskans

The Pursuit of Happiness – Without Government Interference

Not too long ago, I had the honor of nominating an Alaskan family as “Angels in Adoption,” a celebration of the selflessness shown by foster care families and those who adopt children.  They arrived in Washington, DC, a military family who had opened their doors to not one child but four siblings to make sure that these sisters and brother had the simplest gift you can give a child: a home together.  We had lunch together, and they shared their stories with me.  All the while, the children politely ate lunch and giggled as content youngsters do.  Given my daily hectic Senate schedule, it’s not often that I get to sit down with such a happy family during a workday – and I think of them often, as everything our nation should encourage.

I bring them up because the partners were two women who had first made the decision to open their home to provide foster care to the eldest child in 2007.  Years later – and after a deployment abroad with the Alaska National Guard for one of them – they embraced the joy and sacrifice of four adopted children living under the same roof, with smiles, laughter, movie nights, parent-teacher conferences and runny noses.

Yet despite signing up and volunteering to give themselves fully to these four adorable children, our government does not meet this family halfway and allow them to be legally recognized as spouses. After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room – and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner.  They do not get considered for household health care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide.  This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence.

The Supreme Court is set to make a pair of decisions on the topic of marriage equality shortly, and the national conversation on this issue is picking back up. This is a significant moment for our nation when it comes to rethinking our society’s priorities and the role of government in Americans’ private lives and decisions, so I want to be absolutely clear with Alaskans. I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government.  When government does act, I believe it should encourage family values.  I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values:  it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives – while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another.  While my support for same sex civil marriage is something I believe in, I am equally committed to guaranteeing that religious freedoms remain inviolate, so that churches and other religious institutions can continue to determine and practice their own definition of marriage.

With the notion of marriage – an exclusive, emotional, binding ‘til death do you part’ tie – becoming more and more an exception to the rule given a rise in cohabitation and high rates of divorce, why should the federal government be telling adults who love one another that they cannot get married, simply because they happen to be gay?   I believe when there are so many forces pulling our society apart, we need more commitment to marriage, not less.

This thinking is consistent with what I hear from more and more Alaskans especially our younger generations.  Like the majority of Alaskans, I supported a constitutional amendment in 1998 defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, but my thinking has evolved as America has witnessed a clear cultural shift.  Fifteen years after that vote, I find that when one looks closer at the issue, you quickly realize that same sex unions or civil marriages are consistent with the independent mindset of our state – and they deserve a hands-off approach from our federal policies.

First, this is a personal liberty issue and has to do with the most important personal decision that any human makes.  I believe that, as Americans, our freedoms come from God and not government, and include the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence:  life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What could be more important to the pursuit of happiness than the right to choose your spouse without asking a Washington politician for permission?    If there is one belief that unifies most Alaskans – our true north – it is less government and more freedom.  We don’t want the government in our pockets or our bedrooms; we certainly don’t need it in our families.

Secondly, civil marriage also touches the foundation of our national culture: safe, healthy families and robust community life. In so many ways, sound families are the foundation of our society.  Any efforts or opportunity to expand the civil bonds and rights to anyone that wants to build a stable, happy household should be promoted.

Thirdly, by focusing on civil marriage — but also reserving to religious institutions the right to define marriage as they see fit — this approach respects religious liberty by stopping at the church door.   As a Catholic, I see marriage as a valued sacrament that exists exclusively between a man and a woman.  Other faiths and belief systems feel differently about this issue – and they have every right to.  Churches must be allowed to define marriage and conduct ceremonies according to their rules, but the government should not tell people who they have a right to marry through a civil ceremony.

I recently read an interview where Ronald Reagan’s daughter said that she believes he would have supported same-sex marriage, that he would think “What difference does it make to anybody else’s life? I also think because he wanted government out of peoples’ lives, he would not understand the intrusion of government banning such a thing. This is not what he would have thought government should be doing.”

Like Reagan, Alaskans believe that government works best when it gets out of the way.  Countless Alaskans and Americans want to give themselves to one another and create a home together.  I support marriage equality and support the government getting out of the way to let that happen.

Op-Eds – Press Office – United States Senator Lisa Murkowski.

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Marriage Equality in Illinois: Hurry Up and Wait | WCHI News

In light of the passing of marriage equality laws in 12 states plus the District of Columbia, a microscope seems to be on Illinois to see if legislators and Governor Quinn will support their fellow Illinoisan, President Obama.  On May 29th, Obama raised the issue at a fundraising dinner in Chicago when he said of the pending marriage equality bill in the Illinois State House, “I just want to say for the record it’s something that I deeply respect.”

Obama reiterated his support in his speech last Thursday during an annual Gay Pride reception held at the White House, saying that it was time for marriage equality.  “(I)t’s clear we’re reaching a turning point. We’ve become not just more accepting; we’ve become more loving, as a country, and as a people.”

“I’ll continue to support marriage equality and states’ attempts to legalize it, including in my home state of Illinois. We’re not giving up on that,” he later added.

Many Illinois lawmakers remain undecided and certainly feel the pressure but refuse to make their intentions known.  Marriage equality supporters appear to have good cause for worry.

In the waning moments of the legislative session, Representative Greg Harris announced that the sixty votes needed to pass the bill simply weren’t there and that his colleagues needed more time to vote.  Harris is the sponsor of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.  Later, in an interview with Center Square Journal, the northside Chicagoan said, “at the eleventh hour, some members who had said they were inclined to vote yes became very nervous.” He added, “back in their district forces who oppose equality had been…saying the bill was going to attack religious freedom and take the rights away from churches – those kinds of things are not true.”

Pastors Larry Trotter and former State Senator Rev. James Meeks, from the African-American Clergy Association said that it was a victory…that the bill was not called for a vote for “the God-fearing Black Caucus members”.  Harris indicated that forces that “try to drive a wedge between the gay community and other progressives” cannot be allowed to succeed, citing the Black and Latino communities.

As it currently stands, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, having passed in the Illinois Senate in February, has been extended to August 31, with possible further extension into the veto seesion in late October and early November.  The good news for supporters is that Governor Quinn has agreed to sign the bill.


via Marriage Equality in Illinois: Hurry Up and Wait | WCHI News.

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President Barack Obama endorses Employment Non-Discrimination Act at gay rights event – The Business Journals

President Barack Obama endorsed theEmployment Non-Discrimination Act,legislation that would bar employers from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The endorsement came late Thursday afternoon at a White House reception honoring LGBT Pride Month and was warmly received by the crowd. Gay rights groups have been waiting for Obama to throw his weight behind the legislation.

Federal legislation is needed, the president said, because in 34 states you can be fired “because of who you are.”

When the bill was re-introduced in the Senate in April, the White House was silent about the legislation.

Today, however, Obama called for prompt action by Congress.

“We need to get that passed,” he said. “I want to sign that bill. We need to get it done now.”

via President Barack Obama endorses Employment Non-Discrimination Act at gay rights event – The Business Journals.

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As marriage equality sweeps the Midwest, Republican domination holds back Wisconsin | Wisconsin Gaze | Wisconsin Gazette – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) News

Wisconsin’s neighbor Minnesota became the 12th state in the country to legalize same-sex unions, and Illinois is inching closer. In Iowa, marriage equality has been law since 2009.

But although Gov. Scott Walker has had out gay associates, including two who’ve been convicted of crimes committed while serving as part of his Milwaukee County Executive staff, he strongly opposes marriage equality. As a result, marriage equality is not on the legislative agenda in Wisconsin, and that situation is not expected to change in the near future.

“I just don’t think it’s very likely in this state anytime soon,” said Joe Heim, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist, told Post-Crescent Media. “It’s pretty clear that public opinion in the United States is leaning toward gay marriage (but) I just don’t see Wisconsin joining that (group) anytime soon.”

Wisconsin’s constitution, unlike Minnesota’s, bans same-sex marriage.

In November 2006, nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin voters supported an amendment banning marriage equality. The effort to pass the amendment was spearheaded by Julaine Appling, director of the right-wing group Wisconsin Family Action.

via As marriage equality sweeps the Midwest, Republican domination holds back Wisconsin | Wisconsin Gaze | Wisconsin Gazette – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) News.

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7 Reasons DOMA & Prop 8 need to be stopped – TGV News

There are currently 12 states, and the District of Columbia currently that allow same sex marriage. The Supreme Court decision will soon be made with Proposition 8, and DOMA. It is time to refocus to many advantages gay marriage would have, and the pursuit of marriage equality.

There are at least seven ways in which the legalization of gay marriage is beneficial for LGBTQ Americans and the United States of America.

Gay Marriage Promotes Equality and Non-Discrimination in Society

Millions of LGBTQ contribute daily to American life in a multitude of ways culturally, socially, financially, politically, vocationally, and spiritually. We are fundamental to this nation’s continued growth and evolution, the U.S.A. would suffer greatly from the withdrawal of our many contributions. The legalization of same-sex marriage affirms the inherent worthiness of LGBTQ people as valued American citizens deserving of equal rights under the law.

via 7 Reasons DOMA & Prop 8 need to be stopped – TGV News.

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BREAKING: Delaware becomes 11th marriage-equality state

Just minutes before the Delaware Senate was set to vote on its marriage equality bill Tuesday, a Democrat senator who had been quiet about how she would vote announced on her Facebook page that she was a yes. The announcement by Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, who represents Dover, the state capital, came just minutes after the city’s other Democratic senator, Karen Peterson, came out as gay on the floor during debate.

The final roll call vote, after three hours of debate, was 12-9, with the gallery erupting into loud and prolonged applause.

Just minutes later, Democratic Gov. Jack Markell signed the bill, making Delaware the 11th state (plus the District of Columbia) to provide for equal protection under its marriage laws.

Meanwhile, a Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee gave the marriage equality bill there a green light Monday, and the House floor is scheduled to vote on the measure Thursday. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is lobbying actively for the measure.

And Illinois is also poised to take a final vote on its marriage equality bill this week. The state senate passed the bill in February; the House bill needs 60 votes to pass.

via BREAKING: Delaware becomes 11th marriage-equality state.

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DOMA 2013: 17 Years Later, Some Things Still Haven’t Changed

In the 10 years since Massachusetts became the first state in the country to recognize same-sex marriages, another 10 states have taken similar steps. As of this writing, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, New York, Washington, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Delaware have all recognized same-sex marriages. Minnesotaseems likely to join them as soon as the end of this week. There is widespread expectation that a large number of other states will soon follow. California, pending the Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8, may be amongst them.

State by state by state. That’s how marriage equality has progressed and is progressing — through state courts, through state referenda, through state legislative actions. First, through the reliably liberal blue states (plus Iowa). Then, at some hitherto unknown date far, far into the future, into the red states.

In other words, Georgia’s gay or lesbian couples (all 21,318 of them) may be waiting a while for their weddings. Considering that 40 years after desegregation, a Georgia high school just had itsfirst racially integrated prom, there’s a precedent for patience.

Federalism. States’ rights. That’s what it’s about, ultimately. Just as the War of Northern Aggression was fought over the over-extension of presidential power and South Carolina’s right to not implement Northern trade tariffs. Just as Southern opposition to the Civil Rights movement was about protecting the autonomy and private-property rights of small businesses.

via DOMA 2013: 17 Years Later, Some Things Still Haven’t Changed.

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Delaware and Rhode Island legalize gay marriage; Minnesota set to follow by Saturday – baltimoresun.com

Six months after Maryland, Maine and Washington voters endorsed same-sex marriage at the ballot box, two more states have adopted laws allowing gay couples to marry, and a third is poised to join them. On Tuesday, lawmakers in Delaware adopted a same-sex marriage law, and Minnesota’s House of Representatives passed a marriage equality measure there today, setting up a final vote in the Senate on Monday. Last week the Rhode Island legislature adopted a similar measure. That three states have moved to legalize gay marriage over the span of less than a month shows how quickly public attitudes toward same-sex unions are changing. Still, more progress may be difficult until more Republicans start to see the issue as one of civil rights, equal protection under the law and individual liberty.

Polls show that nearly 60 percent of Americans now believe gay marriage should be legal, up from less than 40 percent only a decade ago. Among young people, about 8 in 10 think gay couples should be allowed to marry, a trend that clearly favors wider acceptance of such unions in the future. The evolution of public opinion on same-sex marriage is in line with a broader movement toward recognition of gay rights that has manifested itself over the last year in spheres as varied as the Boy Scouts, professional sports teams and the military.

The Supreme Court is currently considering two cases related to same-sex marriage, one that could establish it as a right under the Constitution and another that could overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages. During oral arguments, the justices signaled varying degrees of discomfort with making a sweeping ruling in either case, but as the political battle over rights for gays tilts toward equality in state after state, such caution appears increasingly out of touch.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-gay-marriage-20130512,0,126562.story#ixzz2SzIe3fmF

via Delaware and Rhode Island legalize gay marriage; Minnesota set to follow by Saturday – baltimoresun.com.

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