Why Three Republicans Said Yes to LGBT Worker Protections

Written by Andrew Cray

This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee voted 15-7 to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with support from Republican Sens. Mark Kirk (IL), Orrin Hatch (UT), and Lisa Murkowski (AK).

The bill, now headed for the Senate floor, is considered instrumental in preventing workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and mending the “broken bargain” of unequal treatment of LGBT workers under the law.

Here are five data-driven reasons why there is record support — 53 Senate cosponsors — for passing ENDA:

1. LGBT workers face incredibly high rates of workplace discrimination.

Nearly 4 out of 10 “out” gay, lesbian, or bisexual employees report experiencing harassment at work, and 9 out of 10 transgender people report the same. Even more shocking is that 9 percent of “out” LGB workers, and 26 percent of transgender workers, have been fired simply because of who they are.

2. LGBT people and their families face economic insecurity because of employment discrimination.

Getting harassed in the workplace isn’t just a matter of discomfort for LGBT workers — the economic consequences for these individuals and their families are devastating.

Employment discrimination is a major driver of economic insecurity among LGBT families. Contrary to popular stereotypes, gay and lesbian couples are  more likely to live in poverty, and poverty rates for lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are as high or higher than for straight adults. For transgender employees, the situation is even more severe —15 percent of transgender people live on under $10k a year — over four times the rate of the general population.

3. A majority of states do not prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers.

In most states, LGBT workers have no recourse for harassment or discrimination in employment.  Though more states pass LGBT inclusive nondiscrimination laws each year, only 21 states and DC prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and only 17 and DC forbid employers from discriminating on the basis of gender identity. Thus, firing someone just for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is perfectly legal in more than half the country.

4. Nine out of 10 Americans already believe ENDA is already federal law.

Even though ENDA would be the first federal law to prohibit employers from discriminating against LGBT people, 9 out of 10 voters mistakenly believe LGBT workers already have federal protections against employment discrimination. The lack of outcry from that 90 percent of voters who believe that ENDA is already law discredits the arguments of opponents who claim that the bill introduces outrageous “special protections” for LGBT employees or that it would impermissibly tell employers what to do.

5. There is overwhelming support from voters and business owners for LGBT-inclusive workplace protections.

Polling by the Center for American Progress shows that 73 percent of the American public supports nondiscrimination protections for LGBT employees.

This support cuts across demographic lines. Two-thirds of Republicans, 74 percent of Catholics, 61 percent of senior citizens, and even half of people who identify themselves as being anti-gay support ENDA’s protections.

A 2013 Small Business Majority poll similarly shows that small business is also in favor of workplace protections. Sixty seven percent of small businesses believe the federal law should prohibit employment discrimination against LGBT people.

The premise of ENDA is a simple one: employees should be judged based on their merit, and nobody should be harassed or turned away from a hard day’s work simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The numbers tell the story, and it’s now up to Congress to take action and pass ENDA into law.

This post was originally published at ThinkProgress.

Photo from Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G4 years ago


Allan Yorkowitz
.4 years ago

I just had to comment on Lyn B.'s last comment. Hatch and Markowski are from two states whose population did not favor Obama. Kirk, from Illinois could not get a gay marriage endorcement from Obama's own home state. How embarrassing for the President!....

Amy Fisher
Amy Fisher4 years ago


Anne F.
Anne F4 years ago

Agree that Senator Murkowski has changed her mind on some social issues. Her rationale is that as she believes in limited government, she now supports civil marriage for all, as well as this item.

Aud Nordby
Aud nordby4 years ago


Justice Ross
Justice R4 years ago

"Repugnicans are getting smarter"?
Shouldn't we be welcoming to them, then? Can we never be civil?
Bi-partisan relations don't have to be war.
Bravo, you three wonderful Republicans. I apologize for all the hate comments here. Hopefully, your colleagues will begin to follow in your footsteps.

Jane H.
Jane H4 years ago

We need ENDA NOW! Some Repugnicans are getting smarter.

Sonia Minwer-Barakat Requ
Sonia M4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Dale O.

Three GOP senators doing the right thing? Wonders never cease. Too bad that there are not more examples of this new enlightenment from the GOP. I won't be holding my breath on that one but every victory helps.