During its first House hearing, openly
gay representatives Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin urged passage of a
federal gay protections bill, the AP reported.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act
(ENDA) would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation
and gender identity (transgender protections) in the area of
Both representatives testified
Wednesday before the House Education and Labor Committee considering
“Trying to get a job or join the
military has not been the hallmark of radicalism,” Frank said
referring to the claims of opponents who have labeled the bill part
of a “radical agenda.”
A majority of Fortune 500 companies
have already adopted policies that protect gay and lesbian workers.
Baldwin said it was time “to bring our laws in line with the
reality of American life.”
If approved, the law would exempt the
military, religious groups and small businesses with fewer than 15
“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?”
A similar bill that omitted transgender
protections passed the House two years ago but died under the threat
of a presidential veto in the Senate. This year, President Obama has
pledged his support. Frank sponsored both measures in the House. A
Senate version was introduced by two Democrats – the late Ted
Kennedy of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon – and two
Republicans – Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine – before
the summer recess.
Twenty-one states ban workplace
discrimination based on sexual orientation, but only 12 states
protect transgender people.