A legal organisation that fights for the civil rights of lesbians and gay men has urged the United States Congress to act swifly to introduce new legislation protecting LGBT people in the workplace.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act was introduced in the US Congress yesterday.

Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal, said:

“With an inclusive ENDA now introduced, Congress should act swiftly to pass this law to ensure workplace equality for our entire community. We thank Representative Barney Frank for introducing the bill and Representatives Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis, and many others, for co-sponsoring it.

“Typically, workplace discrimination is the number one complaint among people seeking assistance from our Legal Help Desk. Workplace equality has been a top priority for all of Lambda Legal’s 36-year history.

“Despite the fact that the majority of Americans favor equal rights for lesbians and gay men with regard to job opportunities, only 20 states plus the District of Columbia specifically ban workplace discrimination in the private sector based on sexual orientation and only 13 states plus D.C. expressly ban discrimination based on gender identity.

“ENDA would ensure that in most workplaces a person’s qualifications and job performance, rather than sexual orientation or gender identity, will be the factors that determine success on the job. Fairness and equal opportunity in employment are fundamental American principles and they should apply to all Americans.

“ENDA would provide a powerful tool for Lambda Legal to do what it does best: work through the courts to ensure equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the country. We call on Congress to enact ENDA quickly to end discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Previous attempts by the US Congress to pass a federal law protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans Americans from workplace discrimination fell apart amid acrimonious claims and counter-claims over trans rights.

In November 2007 the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was passed by the House by 235 to 184.

ENDA was originally designed to make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or promote a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The decision to remove trans people from the scope of the legislation caused anger among the LGBT community in the US, with many demanding an “all or nothing” stance.

Some House Democrats did not want ENDA to include protections for trans people, fearful of a backlash from conservatives.