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November 9, 2013

Let's end bigotry and pass ENDA

The Daily Star

---- — It’s right there in the Pledge of Allegiance:

“… With liberty and justice for all.”

Except, of course, if you happen to be gay or lesbian or transgender. 

Federal law says you can’t be discriminated in the workplace on the basis of sex, race or national origin. However, if you don’t happen to live in the 22 states or the District of Columbia where laws ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, you can be fired just for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Imagine living in one of the less-enlightened states, and you prefer to keep the fact that you’re gay private. Is it right that you have to go in to work each day worried that the boss might find out? That you could be fired just because a co-worker passing by might have seen you leaving a gay bar?

Since at least 1994, polls have consistently shown that a healthy majority of Americans favors adding sexual orientation to the national protections for sex, race and national origin.

On Monday, seven brave and moral Republicans joined all the Democrats in the U.S. Senate and overcame a GOP filibuster, 61-30, to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, better known as ENDA.

The bill would keep employers with 15 or more workers from firing, refusing to hire or discriminating against workers or job-seekers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Unfortunately, the bill must also pass through the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner said Monday he will not even allow it to come to a vote.

“The speaker, of all people, should certainly know what it’s like to go to work every day afraid of being fired,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told the Huffington Post. “Instead of letting the far right trample him again, it’s time for Speaker Boehner to stand with the majority of everyday Republican voters and support ENDA.”

Boehner and others in his party have a lot of ready reasons to disguise this bigotry that goes against everything for which this country should stand. It’s unnecessary, they say, because of workplace statutes, and a lot of private companies already prohibit discrimination.

They also say it would bring about a flood of lawsuits, but the Government Accountability Office did a study about states with laws like ENDA and found “there were relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity filed.”

There’s an exemption for religious beliefs in the bill, but it’s too vague, according to the bill’s opponents.

Those seven brave Republican senators decided they didn’t want to be on the wrong side of history. It’s long past time for Speaker Boehner and his cohorts to decide the same thing.