We could be on the cusp of another major LGBT milestone this year, when, on Monday, the U.S. Senate begins debating the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The long-overdue legislation would prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. According to Gay Star News, it has the support of every Democrat in the House, and there are at least five Republicans on board. One of those, however, is not Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey. In an effort to urge his support, Philly State Representative Brian Sims sent him this open letter:
Dear Senator Toomey,
As I am sure you know, the nation learned in the last several days that not only will the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) likely be put up for a long overdue vote next week by Sen. Harry Reid, but also that the three remaining members of the Senate Democratic Caucus who were not yet supporters of the bill, now indicate their support. These Senators have added their voices to the majority of the Senate which supports this bill, including a number of your Republican colleagues who have either signed on as co-sponsors or voted the bill out of Committee.
In short, Senator, I believe that there is no single piece of civil rights legislation in existence that is more impactful to members of the LGBT community than a fully inclusive ENDA. This legislation does not create special rights, but simply includes hardworking LGBT people among the categories of Americans which the government is already protecting from employment discrimination. No one should lose their job, be subjected to discriminatory treatment or harassment, or be denied the opportunity for advancement because of bigotry, fear or hatred.
Standing up for all Americans, and against discrimination and injustice, is fundamental to who we are as a nation. While we all continue to grapple with issues of faith, morality, family and government, what is clear is that we are a people who believe in giving everyone a fair shot and a fair shake. Our laws have been incomplete, and as a result, millions of our friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers have been allowed to fall through the cracks. You have a tremendous opportunity on the horizon to fix this mistake, and to proclaim your support for a more equal nation.
Senator, I not only urge you as an openly gay man, but also as a fellow lawmaker and Pennsylvanian to vote in favor of ENDA when the legislation comes up for a vote next week, but I encourage you in the strongest terms possible to state right now, unequivocally, that you will be a co-sponsor of the bill as well.
Despite our political differences, I have always agreed with your steadfast commitment to job creation and increasing economic opportunities for the state. I also know you to be a man of respect and integrity and while I know that the fringe opposition to equality may be a difficult burden to bear at times, the citizens of Pennsylvania are clear in their overwhelming support for these types of basic, commonsense protections.
In these last weeks you have heard from organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Equality Pennsylvania, Keystone Progress, Americans for Workplace Opportunity and others, all asking you to show your support for ENDA and recognize what nearly three quarters of the Commonwealth, almost 9 million Pennsylvanians already know, that we are a nation that deserves full equality for all of our family members and neighbors and we should settle for nothing less.
Please sign on as a co-sponsor of ENDA before it’s too late and please vote to affirm the American tradition of protecting and defending the civil liberties of all people.
Rep. Brian Sims
Pennsylvania House of Representatives