For Immediate Release - November 20, 2013

AG Coakley Urges U.S. House to Pass Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Act Would Prohibit Workplace Discrimination on Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

BOSTON – Highlighting the positive impact similar state laws have had in Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley today urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a federal employment non-discrimination act that would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

In a letter sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, AG Coakley expressed her support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA), which already passed the U.S. Senate with bi-partisan support on November 7. AG Coakley also joined 13 attorneys general in sending a multistate letter to the U.S. House calling on Speaker John Boehner to bring the historic bill to the floor for a vote.

“By passing state laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, Massachusetts has created a safer, more productive, and more tolerant environment for its workers,” said AG Coakley. “All individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be treated equally in the workplace, so they can work and thrive in a safe and accepting environment. We are calling on the U.S. House to pass this law at the federal level so that all workers nationwide are guaranteed these important civil rights protections.”

Massachusetts is one of 21 states that provide sexual orientation and/or gender identity workplace protection. In 1989, Massachusetts amended its anti-discrimination laws to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 2011, did the same regarding gender identity. As AG Coakley notes in her letter, it has been found that “when discrimination is removed as a barrier to success, both workers and companies are better positioned to thrive.”

The AG’s letter to the House coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which paved the way for same-sex couples to marry. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to license marriages between same-sex couples. In 2009, AG Coakley’s led Massachusetts’ challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), becoming the first and only state to successfully challenge the law in court. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA as unconstitutional.

The multistate letter states the importance of attorneys general, as chief law enforcement officers, to promote equal protection as “a fundamental American principle that transcends state and party lines.”

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