Supporters say opponents using “‘hate-filled’ rhetoric, lies to campaign against anti-discrimination bill
WASHINGTON Gay rights advocates in Washington said this week they expect the full House Education and Labor Committee to act on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act within the next week.
The issue was pushed from the committee’s calendar this week “simply because of scheduling issues,” according to Brad Luna, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign.
“We expect it to be voted out of committee next week and then go to the House floor for a vote towards the end of September or the very first week of October,” Luna said.
Advocates and some lawmakers say they expect the measure will win approval in the House, but they are far less optimistic about its chances in the Senate.
ENDA would make it illegal for employers to make decisions on hiring, firing, promoting or paying an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Churches and the military would be exempt.
Federal law bans job discrimination based on factors such as race, gender and religion. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have laws against sexual orientation discrimination.
Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay Democrat from Massachusetts, said, “You don’t know if anything can pass the Senate. No predictions are possible about the Senate.”
Conservative activists, too, are bracing for a Senate showdown.
“We know it’s going to be very close,” said Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues for Concerned Women for America.
Barber is among those opponents of ENDA who say it could undermine the rights of people who oppose homosexuality for religious reasons.
Critics also say gay rights advocates are exaggerating the extent of anti-gay discrimination in hopes of boosting their political agenda.
But supporters of the bill say that opponents have used “hate-filled” lies and rhetoric to try and cloud the issue. Officials with the Human Rights Campaign pointed to testimony by LGBT people who have experienced discrimination on the job, and to a 2007 study by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA which found that at least one in 10 gay, lesbian, and bisexual people surveyed reported suffering employment discrimination and that at least 10 percent of straight coworkers reported witnessing discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual colleagues.
GOP Senate leaders are expected to oppose the measure, McClusky said. President Bush has not said where he stands.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., plans to introduce Senate legislation this month proposing a discrimination ban.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 21, 2007