Discrimination on Bill Supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Discrimination on Bill Supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Discrimination on Bill Supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada) is supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) being reintroduced this year.  The bill has been voted down several times before.

In 2007, Congress removed the “T” from the LGBT portion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender protection from the legislation.  They determined they would not have enough votes to pass the ENDA.  The bill is aimed at preventing employers from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation but not on gender identity or expression.

After several introductions and failures of the bill, the ENDA has emerged this year with language that includes gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression.  Both the Senate and the House must pass the bill before President Obama can sign it into law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  He has a personal reason according to what he told reporters last month, “My niece is a lesbian,” he said. “She’s a school teacher. Her employment shouldn’t be affected with that. We should have a law that says that, not just the good graces of wherever you work.”  (huffingtonpost.com)

Secretary of State John Kerry and US Health and Human Services Secretary (USHHS), Kathleen Sebelius, are supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community during LGBT Pride Month.

Kerry has released a promotional video on the State Department website supporting those who identify with the population; however, he associated their struggles to those of all of humanity.

“This month is about the assertion of equality and dignity,” Kerry said.  “It is about the affirmation of fundamental freedoms and human rights.  It is about people taking pride in who they are, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.” (gaystarnews.com)

US Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, recognizes the struggles of the LGBT community in terms of healthcare, especially during LGBT Pride Month.

Discrimination on Bill Supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Discrimination on Bill Supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

In Sebelius’ news release this month on the matter, she acknowledged that the LGBT community has been treated like a group of lower class citizens when it comes to healthcare, often times facing limited access to services and insurance.  Additionally, those individuals have had higher rates of tobacco use, are at an increased risk for mental health illness and were less likely to seek preventative care necessary to stay healthy.

Sebelius believes the LGBT community, like all Americans, deserves the most respectful health care providers and the ability to get affordable, quality, and accessible health care.  She has worked hard with her team at the Department of Health and Human Services (USHHS) to make a difference for the LGBT community.

New standards have been put in place to reduce barriers for groups like those who identify with the LGBT community; the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care, recently released by the USHHS.

CLAS allows Americans better access to health-care through enhanced Medicare and Medicaid programs and additional options for insurance coverage.  Under the Health Insurance Marketplace, consumers will be able to compare plans and select the one that best suits them; enrollment begins October 1, 2013.

Under the Affordable Care Act, important factors Sebelius wants to remind everyone during LGBT Pride Month:

  • “Insurers can no longer impose lifetime dollar limits on health insurance coverage, and annual limits will be phased out in 2014. This is particularly important for people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other chronic diseases requiring comprehensive, long-term care.
  • Starting in 2014, insurers cannot deny coverage or charge higher rates based on a pre-existing condition or because an individual is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
  • Insurers generally must cover such vital preventive services as HIV screening, vaccinations, depression screening, contraception, intimate-partner violence screening, and annual well-woman visits, at no out-of-pocket charge.
  • Healthcare.gov includes a health plan finder tool that allows consumers shopping for health insurance to filter for plans offering coverage for domestic and same-sex partners.” (hhs.gov)

Both Kerry and Sebelius recognize how important June is to the LGBT community, and Pride Month is a symbolic step forward in acceptance, tolerance of differences in others, and a chance to educate.

LGBT Pride Month – June

June has been designated as LGBT Pride Month in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots.  The Riots occurred in June 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York City, at the Stonewall Inn; they were a series of violent and spontaneous demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid.  The riots are considered to have marked the beginning of the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States.

Over the years, the entire LGBT community has come to hold events during the month of June; pride events such as parades, festivals, and rallies are held across the country.

The president has occasionally declared June as the official Pride Month; this year, President Barack Obama made his official statement saying, “The story of America’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union. It is a story about the struggle to realize the great American promise that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law. Each June, we commemorate the courageous individuals who have fought to achieve this promise for LGBT Americans, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”  (boston.com)

Kathleen Sebelius supports the LGBT community during June as well, saying, “While we’re proud of our accomplishments, we recognize there is much still to be done. HHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of all Americans, including LGBT individuals, and we look forward to continuing this important work during Pride Month and beyond.” (hhs.gov)

Discrimination on Bill Supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Discrimination on Bill Supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Kerry’s videotaped comments go on to say, “Recent events underscore that despite progress, we still have a long way to go.  There are LGBT people of all ages, all races, and all faiths – citizens of every country on Earth.  And in too many places, LGBT people and their supporters are being attacked and harassed for simply being who they are and for standing up for their rights.” (gaystarnews.com)

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would be an important step forward for the LGBT community and the nation in general.

By Dawn Cranfield

Senior Correspondent / Product Specialist

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