Transcript: Sen. Jeff Merkley’s remarks on the passage of ENDA – press briefing Nov. 7, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) on the Senate’s passage of S. 815 Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA), which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 64 to 32. The press briefing was held on Nov. 7, 2013:

Well, let the bells of freedom ring! It’s very exciting to have this powerful bipartisan vote…the Senate has clearly spoken to end discrimination in the workplace.

I thank so much the leadership of Sen. [Harry] Reid for bringing forth this bill to the floor and making sure that this would happen.

Sen. [Tom] Harkin, who guided the committee through several hearings and a mark-up.

For a terrific bipartisan team. Tammy Baldwin brought so much energy and momentum in coming to us from the House with her experience and her story.

Sen. [Mark] Kirk as a chief co-sponsor who stood firmly in favor of ending discrimination and helped connect with so many of his colleagues.

And Sen. [Susan] Collins who in 2009 and 2010 was the chief co-sponsor and continued working on this day in and day out. It’s an incredible bipartisan group that said discrimination must end.

And I certainly need to mention Sen. [Ted] Kennedy. It’s Sen. Kennedy who asked me to undertake leadership of this bill as he was ill in 2009. And he said when we introduced it in August – he said that the promise of America – and this was August 2009 just 20 days before he passed away. He said that “the promise of America will never be fulfilled as long as justice is denied to even one among us.” Very true words.

It is from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to our battles over slavery, our battles over gender discrimination, race discrimination, we have fought to capture that vision of equality and liberty and opportunity and fairness embedded in our founding documents and our founding vision. We’ve taken a huge stride today in that direction.

Now, I hope that the momentum will carry to the House. Speaker [John] Boehner has mentioned that he might not bring this up in the House and I simply call upon him to do so. His concerns, his concern that perhaps other laws govern this, I can assure you they do not. In 29 states, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against our LGBT community. His concern that there would be a flood of lawsuits is easily disproved from studies of the 21 states that have these protections. And certainly his concern that this would reduce employment is unfounded because when the individual can rise to their full potential within the workplace, then the entire company thrives and that only creates more jobs.

So this is a terrific day for fairness and freedom. And I am just honored to have been part of this tremendous coalition that has made this happen.



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