By Charles Pope, The OregonianNovember 05, 2009, 3:32PMWASHINGTON -- The Obama Administration Thursday endorsed full-scale protections for gay and transgender workers from job discrimination, giving a major boost to legislation written by Sen. Jeff Merkley that is based on similar protections offered in Oregon.``No American should be denied a job or the opportunity to earn promotions, pay raises and other benefits of employment because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identify, which have no bearing on work performance,'' Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights told a Senate panel.``No one should be fired because he or she is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Period,'' Perez told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He added: ``This is a top legislative priority for the Obama administration.''The bill offered by Merkley is the latest iteration of a legislation originally offered in 1994 by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Merkley's bill is largely patterned after one he helped pass in Oregon in 2007 that provides protections against job discrimination.It would prohibit employers, employment agencies and labor organizations from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Such protections are already in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability.While the similar legislation has been introduced in past years, objections from business and religious groups have derailed it. This year, however, Merkley and other lawmakers believe they have both the votes and public support necessary for passage.``Discrimination is simply wrong,'' Merkley said. ``This bill takes us a major step toward equality in America.''Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa also expressed strong support for the bill but said it would not pass until next year given the Senate's crowded legislative schedule.``Too many hardworking Americans are being judged not by their talent, ability and qualifications but by their sexual orientation or gender identity,'' Harkin said.``Qualified workers should not be turned away or have to fear losing their livelihood for reasons that have nothing to do with their capabilities, skills or performance,'' he said.Yet, because current law in many states does not provide protections, employers are free to discharge workers based on sexual orientation or gender identify with impunity.Currently, 12 states - including Oregon and Washington - prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Another 21 states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.Merkley's bill covers a wide swath of the the workplace, including federal, state and local governments and any private employer with more than 15 workers. It would exempt religious entities or other organizations that already enjoy exemptions from the Civil Rights Act because of religious practices.In building support for the bill, called the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, Merkley and other are stressing its benefits to business and the overall economy.That point was reinforced by Virginia Nguyen of Nike who told the committee, ``From our perspective ENDA is good for business, for our employees and our community.''Among other reasons, Nguyen said such an environment ``enables us to attract and retain the best and the brightest people in the world.''
Friday, November 6, 2009
Original article: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/11/white_house_gives_boost_to_mer.html
Posted by De Sube at 11/06/2009 07:55:00 AM