Two days ago, 61 Senators – including seven Republicans – voted to begin debate on the vital role of passing the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA).
ENDA; A bill that if passed in the coming days, would prevent workplace discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, the Bill ensures that workers should not feel scared that they might lose their jobs if their employer finds out (yup, it’s still taboo to be gay or transgender in the land of the free) that they happen to be in love with someone of the same gender as themselves, or happen to be transgender. It is a civil rights bill, an equality bill, a bill that levels the playing field. Which is why Republicans in the House oppose it.
Predictably, a Republican House that didn’t wish to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act if it happened to cover LGBT couples and fought hard (though, ultimately failed) to prevent it passing appear to see ENDA as an opportunity to reiterate how much they dislike anyone who happens to be LGBT. The same heterosexual, male, anti-equality NO votes appear on every Senate roll call; Cruz, Paul, Lee, Rubio. A filibuster proof majority ensured the far-right in the Senate could not hold the country to ransom again.
That being said, despite the fact that ENDA will almost certainly pass the Senate, and has widespread support from the public (60% support ENDA), Speaker Boehner refuses to bring a vote to the House floor. Insisting:
“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”
– Just analyse that quote for a second. Really take in what Boehner is saying here. The Speaker of the House has just referred to lawsuits against employers that threaten your livelihood, your income, your ability to pay your mortgage, or feed your family, or pay your bills, the heartache and bullying it perpetuates, based solely on your sexual orientation – which is absolutely none of their business, and does not affect your work – as “frivolous”. The act of firing someone based solely on their sexual orientation, the Republicans do not apparently see as “frivolous”, and in fact consider perfectly reasonable and legitimate. To take this logic to its ultimate conclusion, they must – if they are to be consistent – also support workplace discrimination when it is aimed at race, gender, and religion.
Ironically, this is the same House Speaker that has brought 48 frivolous anti-Affordable Care Act votes to the House Floor, and forced a frivolous government shutdown costing $24bn. I’m not entirely sure the Speaker of the House is in any position to be telling us what is and isn’t “frivolous”.
Not only that, but it isn’t true that litigation would increase. There is no evidence for that at all. In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office there are currently 22 States that have their own anti-discrimination policies. The GAO report concludes that between 2007-2012, of those 22 States:
“…there were relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity filed in these states during this time period.”
– In other words, anti-discrimination policies work. Whether they are designed to level the playing field by working to end white supremacy, male supremacy, or heterosexual supremacy; they are not only morally right, they work.
But that is just 22 States. Texas, New Hampshire, West Virginia and 25 more States currently do not allow for protection against discrimination in the workplace, if you happen to be gay. So, not only can same-sex couples not get marriage in Texas…. they also can’t mention their partner incase their employer finds out and fires them. This is why ENDA is vital.
That being said, ENDA is not completely equality-oriented. Under ENDA, a religious organisation, or institution; including educational, can still proscribe LGBT people from holding office. A watered down ENDA Bill enshrines institutionalised bigotry, by suggesting that that bigotry is acceptable, if it is based on religious conviction; an exemption ensured by the voice of the Christian-right minority. ENDA doesn’t go far enough, but it’s a good start.
Secondly, Boehner’s statement says unequivocally that the ENDA would cost American jobs. How so? Surely having the option to fire someone based on their sexuality orientation rather than the quality of their work, is a jobs killer. Is Boehner willing to tell the majority of Fortune 500 companies that have non-discrimination policies, that they’re killing jobs? Boehner’s comment implies that discriminating against gay people actually has a positive effect on the economy. For Boehner, the measure of your success through the quality of your work, is less important than who you fall in love with. Hard work pays, but only if you’re straight. For some odd reason, Boehner seems to saying that being able to prevent qualified and talented people from being employed simply for being gay, grows an economy. It quickly becomes easy to see past the “economy! jobs” veil that the Republicans tend to place over their faces to mask their inherent religiously motivated dislike for anyone who isn’t exactly like them. And don’t be fooled, this is just another attempt to allow religion to dictate policy and the concept of rights.
Even if the Speaker’s claims were correct – that jobs were lost, and litigation increased due to ending workplace discrimination – it would not be a legitimate argument to perpetuate oppression and workplace bullying. Speaker Boehner has no credible argument for refusing to allow a debate and vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.
When recently re-elected Republican Governor of New Jersey – and potential Republican Candidate for President in 2016 – Chris Christie was asked how he would respond to the news that one of his children was gay, Christie said:
“[If] my children came to me and said that they were gay, I would grab them and hug them and tell them I loved them, just like I would do with any of my children who came to me with news that they wanted to give to me that they thought were important enough to open themselves up in that way. But what I would also tell them is that Dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. And that’s my position… And I know what [my child] would understand is that their father loves them, and that’s the most important thing.”
– What he essentially saying is: “I love you and everything, but I will continue to vote to uphold a system that made it difficult for you to come to me in the first place, and that will inevitably lead to discrimination and bullying against you in the future.” Whilst Christie isn’t willing to protect his children against bullying, fear and discrimination, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act currently passing through the Senate works to address those problems. It is of vital importance to the cause of civil rights and equality that a secular and democratic nation like the United States has fought since its conception to ensure.