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Shaheen: No one should be hired or fired because of sexual orientation or gender identity

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is urging her colleagues to swiftly pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to important protections from workplace discrimination.  In remarks on the Senate floor, Shaheen drew parallels between the struggle for equality during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and similar struggles LGBT Americans are dealing with today. 

Below are Senator Shaheen’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, almost fifty years ago Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.

This landmark legislation prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, and gender in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Most of us in the Senate recall the passage of this legislation.

And many of us saw firsthand painful examples of the legally-sanctioned discrimination that existed before the Civil Rights Act.

My elementary school years were spent in a state where black and white Americans were treated differently under the law. 

I can still picture the separate water fountains for blacks and whites. I recall vividly going to the movie theater where black Americans could only sit in the balcony.

These practices were wrong, and they ended only because of the Civil Rights Act.

This week the Senate has the opportunity to extend our national quest for equal opportunity for all by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

This legislation simply prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, just as I was proud as Governor of New Hampshire 16 years ago to sign legislation making New Hampshire only the 10th state to include sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination laws. 

That state legislation went further than the bill before the Senate this week. It not only covered employment, but housing and public accommodations as well.

Both the New Hampshire senate and house were controlled by Republicans. The bill passed both bodies with large bipartisan majorities. It was not seen as a partisan issue. 

Including sexual orientation in New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination laws was just another step forward in our state’s long history of promoting civil rights.

No one should be hired or fired in the United States because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I realize that no law can erase prejudice from someone’s heart. Prejudice will continue to exist after the Employment Non-Discrimination Act becomes law, I know.

That’s not the issue.

The issue is whether it is acceptable as a matter of law in the United States to hire or fire someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

In declaring our independence from Great Britain, our founders stated “[w]e hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….”

Equality under the law is part of our national creed.

Let’s take another step forward this week in advancing equal opportunity for all.

Let’s pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with a strong bipartisan majority.