Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bush Will Veto ENDA

According to the the Christian Newswire, President Bush plans to veto the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the Concerned Women of America is already thanking him for doing so.

Of course the CWA* got all hysterical about the possibility that there might be a law that would make discrimination against gays and lesbians et al illegal. They said it would violate their religious freedom:

ENDA would force business owners to betray their faith and adopt a view of sexual morality which directly conflicts with fundamental tenets of that faith. It would give liberal judges the authority to subjectively determine who qualifies for an exemption. It represents the goose that laid the golden egg for homosexual activist attorneys and would open the floodgates for lawsuits against employers who wish to live out their faith.

That assumes, of course, that all business owners are snivelling religious bigots. As Andrew Sullivan notes,

If you ban employers in large firms from firing employees just because they’re gay, you are violating their religious freedom. Christianity, it seems, is reflected in punishing gay people for no other reason than their sexual orientation. The Christianity of this president, anyway.

Using religious freedom has been the argument for all sorts of discrimination including the enforcement of Jim Crow laws. One of Pam Spaulding’s cohorts at Pam’s House Blend sent a letter to Matt Barber at CWA pointing out the obvious logical flaw in their argument.

Based on the logic of your arguments above it should be perfectly legal for someone to fire an individual because they dye their hair to hide grays or disclose to you that they have a tattoo that you can’t even see. That job performance, takes a back seat to a chosen set of religious beliefs.

What if you worked for a company where the person in charge was athiest and had a deep resentment for people of faith, especially those that expressed that faith, not just by evangelizing on the job, but simply by putting up their favorite prayer or passage in their cubicle. Now imagine that employer firing that person for even the smallest expression of their chosen faith regardless of the fact that the person might be the hardest, and most efficient worker for that company. Wouldn’t that just get your blood boiling?

That’s essentially the same thing that you argue for. You argue for a person of a chosen faith to be able to use their deep resentment of a person who identifies (whether that’s choice or not, or changable or not is irrelevant to this argument) as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (not the same as someone who cross dresses for fun) can fire that employee regardless of the fact that the person might be the hardest, and most efficient worker for that company. Hopefully you can see the comparison.

And as always you fail to mention that a person’s chosen religion is already considered a protected class under current federal laws protecting non-discrimination practices in hiring and employment.

That last point is very important. People choose their religion; they do not choose their sexual orientation. So if the federal government is willing to protect people from discrimination based on a conscious choice, why can’t they be protected based on something they have no control over?

On a side note, there has been a lot of discussion — sometimes heated — in the LGBT blogosphere about whether or not ENDA should include transgendered people under the law. The debate centered on whether or not including them would make the bill harder to pass. I stayed out of the debate; since the bill faced an almost-certain veto (in spite of the fact that the White House Office of Legal Counsel helped craft some of the language for the bill), I felt that regardless of whether or not transgendered people were included, the bill was doomed. I also think that there shouldn’t be any discrimination against anyone, and crafting a bill that was half a loaf for the sole purpose of trying to sneak it past this president was a rather cynical approach. You fight the fights that need fighting, not just the ones you think you can win.

*The “Concerned Women of America” conjures up for me an image of a bunch of furrowed-browed old busybodies bustling about in their open-toed sensible shoes and tut-tutting about somebody, somewhere, having fun: “Stop this instant!”