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Employment Non-Discrimination Act Faces Significant Challenges in Congress

While sexual orientation discrimination is protected by the New York State and New York City human rights laws, it is still not protected under federal law. The bill which would include sexual orientation as a protected category is titled the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and was introduced in Congress last month. However, the bill, in various forms, has been introduced in every federal legislative cycle since 1994 and has yet to be signed into law.

One unique feature of this year's Act is the inclusion of protections for trans-gendered individuals regardless of the number of employees an organization has, which differs from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which has minimum requirements on the number of employees. Another significant difference is that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act includes a faith-based exception for religious organizations such that they would be exempt from compliance, which is not a provision of Title VII as it presently exists. While there are many positives to this Act, there is a concern that this faith-based exemption could set a bad precedent by prioritizing the religious nature of the employer over the human rights of the employees.

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