Legislation was introduced Tuesday into the U.S. House of Representatives that would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007 is sponsored by Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Barney Frank, D-Mass.; Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio; and Chris Shays, R-Conn.
Only 17 states and the District of Columbia now protect gay men and lesbians in the workplace, though 87 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their corporate nondiscrimination policies, according to the employee rights law firm of Outten & Golden.
Only 10 states extend protections based on gender identity.
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"For many Americans, ENDA could be as important as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act," Outten & Golden said in a written statement. "As a practical matter, it will not impose a significant burden on corporate America."