ENDA: Food For Thought This Election Season

There’s a lot at stake this Tuesday.

Not only will Americans choose whether or not to re-elect President Barack Obama, but also in four states — Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington — voters will either stall progress toward marriage equality or permanently codify it as the rule of law. Add to that the potential repeal of DOMA (which would be great) and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (which wouldn’t), and you’ll see that the many LGBT civil rights wins we’ve achieved over the past four years are now on the line.

But while the presidential election and marriage equality referendums have taken over the headlines, there’s another issue at stake for LGBT voters and our allies. It’s not as politically charged as the others, but it may help guide you when voting for your representatives in the House and Senate. It’s a key piece of legislation that has been introduced in Congress nearly every year since 1994, only to come up short.

That piece of legislation is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA.

ENDA is fundamental to the creation of a comprehensive federal LGBT civil rights policy. Like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ENDA broadens the scope of federal statues regarding workplace protection, barring employers with more than 15 workers from firing, hiring, or otherwise discriminating against workers or applicants based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (Businesses with fewer than 15 employees would be exempt from ENDA regulations, as would religious organizations.) ENDA will close the gap in states where the protection of LGBT workers is non-existent.

For a real-world example of how ENDA might play out, look at our list of gay-friendly automakers. While many of these companies protect LGBT workers from discrimination, you’ll note that four well-known brands — Hyundai, Kia, Porsche, and Suzuki — don’t. ENDA would address such shortcomings by creating a national standard of protection.

If you want to know your candidate’s stance on ENDA, ask him or her, or visit the candidate’s website. This is hugely important in races for the House and Senate: even though the president may have ultimate say in a matter, the real work of passing legislation starts in Congress.

Our community has a presence in every sector of the automotive industry. We are part of the rank and file on the assembly line. We work in marketing, engineering, design, and finance. We’re employed throughout the supply chain, at oil companies, tire manufacturers, software builders. ENDA will have an impact on all of us.

Consider your vote carefully on election day. It may be the one that brings us closer as a nation — on the assembly line, in the design studio, and in the executive suite.

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