The social conservative group Focus on
the Family is urging lawmakers to oppose the Employment
Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), arguing passage would stifle the
religious freedom of employers.
The bill that would ban employment
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
(transgender protections) is sponsored by openly gay Massachusetts
Representative Barney Frank in the House and two Democrats – the
late Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon – and
two Republicans – Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine – in
“ENDA is a litigation minefield and a
direct threat to religious liberty in the workplace,” Tom Minnery,
vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the
Family, said in a letter
addressed to representatives.
“What will happen when homosexual or
'transgender' employees object to: religious articles on employees'
desks; water cooler discussions about biblical morality; Bible verses
taped to cubicle walls; fliers on company bulletin boards advertising
discussions concerning traditional marriage?,” Minnery asks. “This
is already happening in states and municipalities with ENDA type laws
and many of these case are in litigation.”
Minnery also argues that discrimination
based on sexual orientation and gender identity just doesn't exist
and that being gay is a fluid orientation that cannot be defined:
“How can a business be expected to avoid discrimination against
categories of individuals that are potentially ever-changing and
based on subjective self-identification?”
Passage of ENDA in the House appears
quite certain but the bill faces obstacles in the Senate, where it
has attracted thirty-four co-sponsors. Lawmakers are expected to
take up the bill before the December recess.
A large majority of Fortune 500
companies have adopted similar policies for their gay and lesbian
workers, but only a third include transgender employees. Only 12
states protect transgender people from workplace discrimination.
“Transgender people face tremendous
discrimination in the workplace,” said Michael Silverman, executive
director of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, a
transgender rights group, in a statement. “In these difficult
times, it is imperative that Congress pass the Employment
Non-Discrimination Act to ensure that transgender people, like all
Americans, have an equal opportunity to participate in the
Opponents, however, call the bill an
attack on religious liberty.
“Gay rights activists have wanted
this bill a long time to keep religious employers from being able to
hire and fire based on their moral convictions,” Ashley Horne,
federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action, told Citizen