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Nov 7, 2013

N.C. Senators Split Vote on ENDA Passage

Washington, D.C. - During a successful floor vote on Thursday, passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), 64-32, North Carolina’s two U.S. senators split their votes on the LGBT workplace protection bill.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan voted for the measure, while Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr voted against it. Burr’s opposition to ENDA comes following past support for ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) ban on gay and lesbian military service.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability. ENDA would extend that protection to GLBT people, making it unlawful for companies, labor unions, and employment agencies to hire, fire, promote, or compensate people differently based on sexual orientation or sexual identity. The protections would not apply to religious organizations, members of the armed forces, or companies with fewer than 15 employees.

"We are thrilled that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed with overwhelming bipartisan support," responded Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC. "ENDA represents common sense workplace protections for gay and transgender workers--protections that the majority of North Carolinians already think are in place, and a supermajority believes should be the law."

Sgro added, "We are thrilled Sen. Hagan stood up for equality and in support of LGBT workplace protections, and, at the same time, we are disappointed that Sen. Burr, with his vote, has once again placed himself on the wrong side of history, as well on the opposing side of a vast majority of North Carolinians."

A poll released in September 2013, found that 73% of North Carolinians think employers should not be able to discriminate against gay and transgender workers.

In a concerted week-long effort, hundreds of Equality NC supporters signed a petition thanking Sen. Hagan for her ENDA support, with thousands more encouraging Sen. Burr to vote in favor of the workplace protection policy, in addition to calls and tweets directed at North Carolina's Republican senator.

According to Qnotes, Burr's Press Secretary Robert Reid said the reasoning for the senator’s opposition to ENDA had not changed since his statement on the topic in July 2013.

“Like most Americans, I strongly oppose and condemn unjust discrimination,” Burr said in July. “It is my hope that our society can be tolerant of different people and ideas. That said, whenever we consider new legislation we must always consider the interplay of new laws with existing rights. I am concerned that the ENDA bill would go beyond our existing laws protecting individuals’ employment rights and would impose new burdens and legal uncertainties regarding the exercise of religious liberties. Therefore, I plan to oppose the bill.”

The bill now moves on to an uphill battle in the U.S. House, where Speaker John Boehner has announced his opposition to the bill.

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