The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, passed by a voice vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The act would protect gay and lesbian workers from discrimination in hiring, firing, and salaries or wages. The act would pertain to most business, but the military and religious organizations would be exempt from the law. Already, 12 states and the District of Columbia have laws banning employment discrimination against gays and lesbians.
While the act, sponsored by committee chair Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) was approved by the committee, it was not without controversy. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), ranking republican on the committee, opposed the bill, saying that it infringed on states’ rights. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) broke ranks by supporting the bill. According to Collins, “The right to work free from discrimination is fundamentally American. It is an essential element of our nation’s belief that hard work holds the key to success, not for just a privileged few but for every citizen.”