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

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, 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, I just want to say that we wouldn’t be here without Jeff Merkley. He really spearheaded this whole effort, and as Chairman, I want to thank him for steering this through and for being such a strong supporter of it.

Today is a historic day in the United States Senate when you think about it.

In 1964 we passed the Civil Rights Act. None of us were here then of course.

And then in 1990, we passed the American with Disabilities Act – some of us were here at that time.

And now, we sort of finished the trilogy. We have now said no more discrimination on the basis of your sexual orientation or your gender identity.

It’s a historic – historic – occasion in the United States Senate.

And I also think that it’s remarkable that we got strong bipartisan support…64 votes. And I’m very proud of the fact that our committee reported it out – the first time a committee in Congress, either the House or the Senate, every reported it out a non-discrimination bill on sexual orientation or gender identity. We did that in July.

I want to thank the leadership team here, especially Sen. Reid for his making sure that we had this window of opportunity to make sure we could bring this to the floor. So I want to thank Sen. Reid. I want thank Sen. Durbin, Sen. Schumer, Sen. Murray. This leadership team made it possible for us to come here and I just can’t tell you how much we thank them.

I thank Sen. [Tammy] Baldwin, one of our new members in our committee. I’m sure glad she left the House and came to the Senate and she’s just again been so instrumental in bringing this up.

So now, the ball is now passed to the House. The House of Representatives now has this…and I’m calling on Speaker Boehner to bring the bill to the floor. Let the House vote on it. I am convinced that if the House votes on this, it will pass the House and go to the President for his signature. So I’m asking Speaker Boehner – don’t plug this up, don’t stop it.

Too many people in America have been waiting for far too long to end this blatant discrimination against people because of their gender identity or their sexual orientation.

I would just quote the words I remember when we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. When the first President Bush signed it into law, he said, “Let the shameful walls of discrimination come tumbling down.” That was true in terms of people with disabilities and it’s true today in terms of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters in America. Let the shameful wall of discrimination come tumbling down.

Speaker Boehner, bring this bill to the floor.

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