Desert LGBT Community Watching Federal Discrimination Law Advance
Photo: Video by kmir6.com
PALM SPRINGS - With a 61 to 30 vote, the United States Senate is moving forward discussion of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
A version of ENDA was almost passed in 1996, but failed by one vote.
"We have been waiting a long time and year after year it gets voted down. We think this is our year," expressed Gary Costa, Executive Director of the LGBT Center of the Desert.
More than 20 states, including California, have already passed laws protecting lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transexuals in the workplace; however, Costa said discrimination is still prevalent.
"There are still many reports that we hear at the center from our members and our community that they have been discriminated against overtly and subliminally, especially in our transgender community," said Costa.
One member of the transgender community in the Coachella Valley, who identified himself as a masculine female, shared her story of what she calls discrimination based on her gender identity.
"I'm three years into my transition, and I believe as my job got closer and closer to my change that it kind of caught with each other, and it wasn't a fit for me anymore," said Ricky Garcia, adding that she lost her former job in Los Angeles after tension built among co-workers.
She said her former boss handed her a book about a woman who transitioned into a man to try and "help" her. Then, Garcia knew something had changed in the seven-year relationship she had with her boss.
"As I'm exiting, my boss tells me you know I really believe that you need to go work in your own community with your own people, and I said 'Sir what do you mean?' And he said, you need to go work with people like you," shared Garcia.
Members of the LGBT community in the Valley, like Garcia, believe changing the federal law would stop employers from focusing on their sexual orientation or gender identity rather than their work experience.
"I'm optimistic that people are changing, and so I think the fact that it's even there for people to consider voting on is a huge thing for me in my lifetime," said Garcia.
ENDA is up for a final vote in the Senate later this week.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio) strongly opposes the bill saying it will increase "frivolous litigation."