The Employment Non-Discrimination Act could be voted out of the Senate committee today.
Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work, an organization dedicated to banning workplace harassment and discrimination against LGBT individuals, identified several possible Republican supporters on Monday. Almeida named Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as potential backers, along with Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
All are members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which will mark up ENDA on Wednesday morning.
Yes, that Orrin Hatch, he of the staunch Mormon tradition of being not in favor of anything to do with pro-gay rights.
“My tendency is to vote for the bill,” Hatch told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. He said he wanted to make sure that exemptions for religious organizations in the bill remain strong.
“I have concerns about it but I also think that the language in there is really good language,” he added.
If the Senate passes it — and it seems to have enough support on both sides that it will — it faces certain trouble in the House where the anti-gay nutsery is strong. Expect to hear a lot of biblical imprecations about giving “special rights” to the “radical homosexuals.”
Except it’s not a special right to be protected by the federal government from being fired from a job for being gay. So far that right extends to race, color, creed, national origin, but sexual orientation is not protected, and unless an individual state, municipality, or corporate entity specifically prohibits it, you can still be fired for being gay in a lot of places and there’s nothing to be done about it.
Opponents claim that being gay doesn’t deserve protection; it’s either a choice or it’s a behavior, and people don’t have to be “gay” at work. But then, so is religion; no one is born with a particular faith programmed into them, and they don’t have to show up at work wearing a yarmulke or a burka any more than they have to wear a rainbow flag lapel pin. So if the law is going to protect people from discrimination for their faith, then even if being gay is a choice — which it is not — they should be protected for that as well.
I don’t have a problem with providing exemptions for religious organizations from ENDA. If they truly believe that being gay is a violation of their faith, then they shouldn’t be forced to hire someone who is. (I can’t imagine anyone who is gay and who has an ounce of self-respect wanting to work at a place like that.) I also think that any organization that feels the need to exempt themselves from a law that lives up to the fundamental fairness of equal protection that is supposed to be the foundation of our nation seriously needs to do some soul-searching about their own beliefs.