WASHINGTON, D.C.— In an historic vote, today the United States Senate passed legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), to finally prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation. Senator Susan Collins was a lead Republican cosponsor and helped successfully manage this bill on the Senate floor.
Following is Senator Collins’ full statement as delivered on the Senate floor moments before the final vote:
“We are about to make history by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, better known as ENDA. We will establish that the right to work free from discrimination is a fundamental right of each and every American, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, disability, national origin, and now sexual orientation.
“It has taken a long time to get to this day. More than ten years ago, I was proud to join a lifelong champion of civil rights, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, as a cosponsor of ENDA. Over the years, we have rightly taken a stand against workplace discrimination in a wide variety of forms, and it is past time that we close this gap for LGBT employees. The time to pass this bill has come.
“I would like to thank Senators Merkley and Kirk for taking up the mantle and moving this bill forward. They have worked tirelessly across the aisle to make this happen. In addition, Senator Kirk, along with Senator Murkowski and Senator Hatch, led the Republican support for this bill during its consideration by the HELP Committee. I also want to acknowledge the work of Chairman Harkin in bringing this bill to the floor. He has been champion of civil rights throughout his long career.
“I also want to acknowledge the hard work of Senators Portman, Ayotte, Heller, Hatch, and McCain in their effort to improve the bill with anti-retaliation language. This amendment, which was adopted unanimously, improves the bill by strengthening the protections for religious institutions. And I would like to thank each of those Senators for their willingness to work with the sponsors and cosponsors of this legislation.
“All Americans deserve a fair opportunity to pursue the American dream. ENDA is about the fundamental right to work and the right to be judged based on one’s abilities, qualifications, and talents. Much of corporate America has already voluntarily embraced LGBT protections because they know that doing so allows them to retain and attract the best and brightest employees. Nearly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have sexual orientation non-discrimination policies. In fact in my home state of Maine, this has been the law for nearly a decade.
“ENDA is about fairness and workplace equality. Today, I hope the Senate will affirm the principle that the workplace is simply no place for discrimination.”