Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Now that the health-care fight has proven House Democrats can muscle through legislation without a drop of bipartisan support, plans are underway to resurrect a bill that would make employers susceptible to lawsuits for refusing to hire “gay” or transsexual employees.
H.R. 3017, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, or ENDA, makes it unlawful for government agencies or businesses with more than 15 employees to refuse hire or promotion of anyone based on “gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.”
The bill does make exceptions for the U.S. military, religious organizations and some businesses with non-profit 501(c) designations, but makes no provisions for business owners’ consciences. A small construction company that wanted to maintain a Christian reputation, for example, could be sued if it refused to hire transvestites.
Openly homosexual members of the House, enthused by the health-care victory, are now looking to return from the congressional recess to begin work on ENDA.
”I am now confident that we will be getting a vote on ENDA,” bill sponsor Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., told Boston’s Edge, ”The fact is, there was no chance of getting [Pelosi] to focus on this until health care was done. Health care is now done.”
He continued, “What people in our community need to do now is focus on lobbying members of the House so that we have the votes for it.”
The bill already has 198 cosponsors, not far from the number of votes needed to pass or the 219 that enabled the health-care legislation to squeak through.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., in fact, is confident the measure is primed to pass.
Baldwin told the Edge, ”I’ve heard encouragement that as soon as we return from this recess we will promptly take up ENDA. I suspect that’s the result of feeling some real confidence that the votes are in.”
When asked by Keen News Service, a national news outlet featuring reporting on lesbian, “gay,” bisexual and transsexual issues, if the measure has enough votes, Baldwin answered, “As someone who has actually counted the votes, I believe that there are.”
Baldwin added, “That’s one of the things the LGBT Equality Caucus does is to [focus] attention to making sure we can tell [House] leadership, with accuracy, what the vote would be if they bring the measures up to the floor.”
As WND reported when the bill was put forward three years ago, several groups voiced opposition to ENDA, which empowers the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce its provisions using some of the same powers granted by 1964′s Civil Rights Act.
“This bill would unfairly extend special privileges based upon an individual’s changeable sexual behaviors, rather than focusing on immutable, non-behavior characteristics such as skin color or gender,” said Shari Rendall, director of legislation and public policy for Concerned Women for America. “Its passage would both overtly discriminate against and muzzle people of faith.
“Former Secretary of State Collin Powell put it well when he said, ‘Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument,’” Rendall quoted.
“Over the years, the homosexual lobby has done a masterful job of co-opting the language of the genuine civil rights movement in their push for special rights,” explained former CWFA Policy Director Matt Barber, who now serves with Liberty Counsel. “This bill represents the goose that laid the golden egg for homosexual activist attorneys.”
The bill does contain certain provisions and exceptions, including the following:
ENDA only affects companies with more than 15 employees
The U.S. military, as well as religious organizations and some 501(c) non-profit organizations are exempted
The law does not enforce preferential treatment or quotas, but specifically deals only with claims of disparate treatment
The law does not require businesses to open their women’s bathrooms or locker rooms to men calling themselves women, or men’s rooms to women, so long as “reasonable access to adequate facilities” is provided that is “not inconsistent with the employee’s gender identity”
The law does not preclude “reasonable dress or grooming standards” at the workplace, provided the employer permits an employee undergoing a “gender transition” to adhere to the same dress as the gender to which the employee is “transitioning”
The law does not require employee benefits to be extended to unmarried partners.
As stated earlier, however, the bill holds no exemption for an employer’s faith or conscience, an omission that has drawn heavy criticism:
“This bill would force Christian, Jewish or Muslim business owners to hire people who openly choose to engage in homosexual or cross-dressing behaviors,” said Barber, “despite a sincerely held religious belief that those behaviors are dangerous, sinful and not in keeping with basic morality.
“ENDA would essentially force employers to check their First Amendment protected rights to freedom of religion, speech and association at the workplace door,” he said.
H.R. 3017 was referred to four House committees in June of last year, but has been dormant since the House Education and Labor Committee held hearings on the bill last September.