Putting an ENDA to job discrimination
Freedom from discrimination is something that Americans of different races and backgrounds have fought to achieve since our nation’s founding, and the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act crucial to this pursuit.
If passed, the act would prevent employers from firing an individual because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also prevent employers from turning away applicants for the same reasons.
It is legal in 29 states to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender aren’t aware that there are no safeguards for them. Federal law prohibits employers from firing or discriminating against someone based on their age, race or gender but not for LGBT individuals.
Previous versions of ENDA have been introduced in Congress since the 1990s, but those attempts failed. President Barack Obama has made some progress on the rights for the LGBT community. He supports marriage equality and repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;” now gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military. It’s a big step forward, but in order for the LGBT community to be fully integrated in society, ENDA will a vital role.
The act has many opponents. One the most vocal is the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian think tank and lobby.
“ENDA is a ‘one size fits all’ solution to alleged discrimination that erases all marriage-based distinctions,” said he FRC on its anti-ENDA website.
“It grants special rights to homosexuals while ignoring those of employers. The federal government should not force private businesses to abandon their moral principles.”
They oppose the legislation because they feel this group is not disadvantaged and people choose their “sexual behavior or gender self-identification.”
One need only point to the fact that other vulnerable groups — women, minorities and the elderly — are protected by the federal government.
According to equalitytexas.org, nearly nine out of 10 Texans, or 89 percent, live in parts of the state where discrimination is legal. Gay and lesbian couples make 9 to 11 percent less than their straight counterparts. The state estimates that if discrimination was banned, Texas would have to investigate about 474 cases of unfair pay difference a year.
In Texas, there is no statewide legislation that protects gay and transgender individuals. Some cities like Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth have passed anti-discriminatory legislation, but in small towns across the state many remain vulnerable.
The 83rd Texas legislature, which began Jan. 8, already shows promise. State Rep. Mike Villareal (D-San Antonio) introduced HB238, which would end such discrimination; It will be the sixth time he has introduced an anti-discriminatory bill.
State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) plans to introduce or co-sponsor a pro-LGBT bill this session, kuhf.com said. Coleman also plans to reintroduce another vote on the same-sex marriage ban that passed by referendum in 2005.
In the fall 2011 semester, The UH Student Government Association introduced its own version of ENDA — the Gender Expression Non-discrimination and Anti-harassment bill. It was eventually ratified by UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator a few months later.
This shows a trend in increased trend of acceptance and integration to society, especially for Texas. Glengariff Group, Inc. found that 75.4 percent of Texan voters polled supported a ban on employment discrimination. Nonetheless, there is a fear among some legislators to support any such legislation.
“We need enough Republicans to believe that a vote for this bill will help them in a general election and won’t hurt them in the Republican primary,” Villareal said, according to dallasvoice.com.
The state legislature needs a brave Republican who’s willing to stand for this issue and actually strengthen the Republican ideal of family unity. House Speaker Joe Straus, (R-San Antonio) may very well be that voice for his party. He’s a moderate Republican who, according to the Dallas Voice, might be the most LGBT-friendly Republican in state history and that gives hope that this could be the year Texas passes its own “mini-ENDA.”
Alex Caballero is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected]