Harkin proud of non-discrimination act

Supporters celebrated with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin on Saturday the progress of anti-discrimination legislation that he has championed since the 1990s.

In the back of Java Joe’s CoffeeHouse in downtown Des Moines, Harkin addressed about 35 activists and others about what the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, commonly called ENDA­, means for Iowans.

“I was very proud of what we did with ENDA,” Harkin said. The bill would ban discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identification.

The U.S. Senate passed the bill Nov. 7 by a 64-32 vote. Harkin said it “cuts across party lines.”

The bill still needs approval from the U.S. House, and Harkin said it could take a while for that to happen. He urged his audience to put pressure on all members of Congress, not just in their districts, to help move the bill to the floor for a vote. Republicans control the House.

“I’m anxious to get this done,” Harkin said. Similar legislation was rejected in Congress in 1996. Supporters say the Senate vote this week reflects changing American views on sexuality and gender issues.

Daniel Hoffmann-Zinnel of Des Moines said ENDA hits home for him as a gay man. The legislation would give him a sense of security not only in his current job, but in any future jobs he might pursue, he said.

Donna Red Wing, executive director of the civil rights group One Iowa, said she applauded Harkin’s work with ENDA.

Harkin said the best strategy for the law’s proponents is to get 218 signatures in the House on a discharge petition, which would force the legislation forward.

“We’ve got to put pressure on Speaker Boehner,” Harkin said.

“He’s not the speaker of the tea party, he’s not the speaker of the Republicans, he’s the speaker of the House of Representatives,” Harkin said.

Harkin said he feels the bill has momentum in the House.

“It’s time that we ban discrimination,” he said.

Read the article from the Des Moines Register.