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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 19 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 38
Rep. Jared Polis files discharge petition for ENDA
Section One
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Rep. Jared Polis files discharge petition for ENDA

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Openly Gay Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) announced on September 18 that he has filed a discharge petition for ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

'A discharge petition is a procedure to force a vote on legislation if it receives signatures from the majority of the House of Representatives,' Polis explained in a statement.

ENDA would prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, giving LGBT employees federal legal protections for the first time.

Polis said he was taking the unusual step of filing a discharge petition because Republican House leaders have repeatedly refused to bring the measure to a vote.

'This is common sense legislation that is supported by a majority of Americans and was passed overwhelmingly by the United States Senate,' Polis said.

'The Republicans have been dragging their feet on this bill for too long, allowing workplace discrimination against hardworking LGBT Americans to continue. In our nation that was founded on the notion that with hard work and dedication anyone can get ahead, it is unthinkable that employees can still be fired for who they love or what gender they are. I hope Members from both sides of the aisle will sign this petition and protect all Americans from discrimination in the work place.'

Polis needs 218 signatures, a majority of the House, to bring ENDA up for a vote. He currently has 75, all of them Democrats. If all his Democratic colleagues sign on, he will still need 27 Republican signatures.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), an original co-sponsor of ENDA, has denounced Polis's discharge petition as a 'partisan political tool' and promised not to sign it.

Polis replied that he wanted 'to throw down the gauntlet' because co-sponsoring the legislation is not good enough.

Narrow religious exemption
A version of ENDA passed the U.S. Senate in 2013, but Polis's version is not identical with that bill.

Since the Senate action, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby, in which the court granted some for-profit corporations a broad religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act, made LGBT activists take a second look at the religious exemption language in ENDA.

Most national LGBT organizations - including the ACLU, Lambda Legal, NGLTF, NCLR, the Transgender Law Center, and Pride At Work - pulled support from the bill. Polis responded to their concerns by significantly narrowing the exemptions in his version of ENDA.

If Polis's new version passes, it will then have to go to the Senate again. Polis said he believed the Senate would pass it.

'The previous incarnation of ENDA was in the pre-Hobby Lobby era,' Polis said. 'I'm confident that if this is brought to the House floor and passes, the Senate will be able to expeditiously act on this bill and send it to the President's desk.'

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