A Senate committee is scheduled to vote next week on legislation long stalled Congress that would prohibit anti-LGBT workplace discrimination, Metro Weekly has learned.
For the first time in more than a decade, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee is expected to begin the markup process of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) on the morning of July 10.
The committee markup process will be chaired by longtime ENDA supporter, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and is expected to include a committee vote on the legislation to send the bill to the Senate floor. The bill is cosponsored by all 12 Democrats on the committee as well as one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.).
While Kirk is the only Republican on the committee to openly endorse the bill, advocates believe other Republicans on the committee could vote in favor of ENDA.
"On the committee, I could see us getting three Republican votes," Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, recently told Metro Weekly. "Kirk we know we have, he's a sponsor and a great champion for the bill. I could see [Lisa] Murkowski of Alaska and [Richard] Burr of North Carolina voting for ENDA in committee."
Last month, Murkowski became the third Senate Republican, after Kirk and Rob Portman of Ohio, to express her support for marriage equality. Burr voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2010.
Next week's markup of ENDA will be the first since 2002, when Sen. Ted Kennedy chaired the committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said in a statement marking June as LGBT Pride month that he looks "forward to taking up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act soon."
[Photo: Tom Harkin (Courtesy of the U.S. Senate)]