Employment Non-Discrimination Act Drawing Nationwide Attention - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Employment Non-Discrimination Act Drawing Nationwide Attention

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Congress has been debating a bill that's drawing a lot of attention across the nation -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or "ENDA".

It's gained support from lawmakers and other groups on both sides.

"I don't think people should discriminate," said Cyndi Bukowski of Reno. "Everybody has their own choice."

"My brother's gay, and I would wish him the same equal opportunity as anyone else if he's qualified for any job," said Tim Driscoll of Reno. "He should be able to apply and be considered equally."

But, not everyone's on board.

"It's going to lead to a whole host of litigations beyond anything we've seen," said Gary Marx, Executive Director with the Faith and Freedom Coalition, an organization out of Georgia. "The trial lawyers in this country couldn't be happier."

The measure would prohibit workplace discrimination against those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender with employers who have 15 or more workers. The bill cleared the first hurdle in the Senate on Monday night, receiving more than 60 votes with both senators Dean Heller and Harry Reid supporting it.

Nevada is a state that already protects the LGBT community in the workplace.

"Certainly, the movement at the federal level is reflecting what's happening at the state level," said Lauren Scott, Executive Director with Equality Nevada.

She's been lobbying for LGBT rights for years.

"As a transgender person, it's very important to me," she said. "We have struggled the last few years to get transgendered protection put on the bill, and there are a lot of people who are denied employment because of the fact they're lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The transgender populations are one of the most under-employed or unemployed percentages. So, this bill would hopefully open the door to a lot of transgender people getting work who otherwise could not."

Many political analysts nationwide believe the bill will not make it through the Republican-controlled house.

"The biggest challenge in the house is to actually have the bill come to a vote," Scott said. "John Boehner has made it very clear he's not interested in bringing that bill to a vote."

Boehner has said the measure would bring frivolous lawsuits and cost Americans and small business jobs. That's something the Faith and Freedom Coalition agrees with, and believes the bill should not pass.

"Obviously, we oppose workplace discrimination is all forms," Marx said. "We believe in respecting an individual's essential dignity, but this bill criminalizes hiring and promotion based on subjective criteria of sexual orientation and gender identity. These are not external characteristics like race, and therefore, you put all of Americans who have small businesses, especially, in a position where they're going to face lawsuits like you've never seen."

Marx said the bill would be impossible to implement because of privacy concerns if employers asked workers about their sexual orientation.

"Those are often fluid standards that can't be known except for if you violate an employee's right to privacy by asking questions," Marx said. "It really puts employers in a terrible spot."

The Senate could have a final vote on the measure by the end of the week.

Written by Adam Varahachaikol

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