April 17, 2015
In the wake of the recent controversy in Indiana over LGBT rights, supporters in Congress are preparing broad legislation going beyond employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to include other areas, such as commercial transactions and housing. Until now, federal legislation has focused exclusively on employment, with the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) being the primary vehicle. This week, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the primary sponsor of ENDA, announced that he and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) expect to introduce a "comprehensive" sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination bill in the coming months. Last year, the Democrat Senate passed ENDA, but it is not expected to be taken up by either chamber in the current Congress and the broader measure would presumably have even dimmer chances. However, it is clear that the Indiana controversy—in which a number of major corporations weighed in on the side of LGBT rights—has added a new dimension to the issue and probably increased the long-term prospects for greater federal protections.