Friday, June 20, 2008

Anti-Discrimination Legislation? Walberg Votes No

This is actually from quite a while ago-- November of 2007. I missed it then, but I think it's absolutely worth pointing out today.

On November 7, 2007, the House of Representatives examined HR 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. In other words, you can't be fired for being gay and you can't be passed up for a promotion because the boss thinks you're gay. Note that if you find yourself in the (very unlikely) situation where you're being discriminated against because you're straight, that's prohibited, too.

In a compromise to conservatives, the bill does not apply to religious organizations, and the bill goes out of its way to state that it does not require or permit preferential treatment (affirmative action) based on sexual orientation, nor does it require employers to provide benefits to unmarried couples that are given to married couples. Indeed, in Section 8 of the bill, it says:
(c) Definition of Marriage- As used in this Act, the term `married' or `marry' refer to marriage as such term is defined in section 7 of title I, United States Code (referred to as the Defense of Marriage Act).
The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

In this bill, there was no horrible advancement of the so-called "homosexual agenda." No one was trying to redefine anything, and no one was trying to advance homosexuals at the expense of others.

Instead, this bill was advanced under a principle I hope most of us can agree on-- that one's performance at work ought to be judged separately from what one does in the privacy of his or her home. I find it hard to believe that sexual orientation impacts job performance in any way.

From the Education and Labor Committee press release on the bill:

At the September hearing, the subcommittee heard testimony from workers who had experienced job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Brooke Waits was fired from her Texas telecommunications job after her employer discovered that she is a lesbian. Since the state of Texas allows employers to fire workers based on sexual orientation, Ms. Waits had no recourse to get her job back. “In a single afternoon, I went from being a highly praised employee, to out of a job,” she testified at the hearing.

“It is hard to believe that otherwise fully qualified, bright and capable individuals are being denied employment or fired from their jobs for these completely non-work related reasons,” said Miller today. “This is profoundly unfair and, indeed, un-American.”

The September hearing also highlighted the fact that many businesses have enacted nondiscrimination policies – both for civil rights reasons and to benefit their own competitiveness. “Perhaps the best evidence that nondiscrimination policies are good for business comes from the fact that many companies have voluntarily adopted such a policy,” testified Lee Badgett, the research director at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, at the September hearing. Badgett testified that 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted nondiscrimination policies for sexual orientation.

(Emphasis added.)

The House Committee on Education and Labor, of which Congressman Tim Walberg is a member, voted 27 to 21 to support HR 3685.

Congressman Tim Walberg voted No. In the hearing on the bill, Walberg expressed concerns that the language of the bill was a little ambiguous regarding religiously-affiliated organizations-- namely, schools and publishers-- and whether they would be required to abide by the non-discrimination rules. Besides that, no explanation for opposition was given.

When the bill came to the full House in November, it was passed, by a vote of 235 to 184.

Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.

Congressman Walberg, do you really think that someone's sexual orientation really has an impact on their job performance? Is it that important to you that a religious school be allowed to fire a science teacher because the school administration thinks he's gay? Or do you just not like gay people?

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