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Federal law would mirror Maryland anti-discrimination law

Since 1994, federal lawmakers have proposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act at nearly every Congress, with similar legislation being introduced for decades before that. Following the Senate's approval of ENDA, this long-discussed set of laws is once again making headlines. If passed, ENDA would make it illegal for any employer to discriminate against any current or potential employees based on their gender identities or sexual orientation.

Various states have laws protecting employment for gay, lesbian and transgender citizens, each with varying levels of comprehensiveness. For instance, Maryland law prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, but lacks the provisions specifically barring discrimination based on gender identity enforced by other states. In total, 21 states have passed some form of legislation concerning employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, about 70 percent of surveyed Americans support the goals of legislation like ENDA. This marks a substantial increase in support compared to the early 1990s when ENDA was initially introduced, according to a similar poll conducted by CNN and Time Magazine. That survey found that 62 percent of respondents favored equal rights for gay and lesbian workers and job applicants. Research suggests that many Americans perceive LGBT citizens as having to endure more discrimination than female, Hispanic and African-American citizens.

ENDA found approval from the Senate in 2001 and the House of Representatives in 2007, but has thus far failed to pass both Congressional bodies. Since 2001, however, the gay rights movement has found significantly more support from both lawmakers and the public, with a number of states legalizing same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Employment discrimination is already a prominent issue in Maryland's legal system, but ENDA's passage would likely give many more Maryland residents the grounds required for employment discrimination lawsuits, entitling them to monetary damages and other forms of compensation.

Saratogian, "What is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA?)" Ed O'Keefe, Nov. 22, 2013

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