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ENDA May Not Mean the End of Job Discrimination

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October 31, 2013

The fight for same sex marriage has consumed the public’s mind in the past few years. With the ruling on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 this past summer many people have gotten tunnel vision, focusing all their efforts to marriage equality. I’ll be the first to admit that there isn’t anything wrong with this. Marriage equality is an issue very dear to many people, both queer and heteronormative.

But another issue looms on the horizon for the queer community and that is job protection. At the moment there is absolutely no federal job protection bill for members of the LGBTQ+ community, meaning that any employer can legally fire one of their employees for their sexuality or gender identity. It’s demoralizing for queer individuals, who are already disproportionately affected by poverty to fill out job applications and see that a business does not protect against sexuality based discrimination.

The Employee Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which would bring an end to legal discrimination based on sexuality, has been slowly working its way through the states and Congress. In Florida, Rep. Joe Saunders introduced a version of the bill at state level to bring an end to discrimination against queer individuals this past spring. Sadly the bill died in our state senate, but on the national level ENDA is going strong and is showing no signs of slowing down now and, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, should be up for a vote by Thanksgiving.

It’s an exciting prospect for many!

But this does certainly beg the question of what we, as a community, deserve. What we certainly don’t deserve is to have our protection, which should be ensured by the Constitution, questioned and challenged to the point of having to write a bill to explicitly state that we, as citizens and residents of this great nation, are included in the Equal Protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. When you think about it, it’s absolutely asinine that we’re having to do this!

In her article on Huffington Post, Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL puts the bill on blast, calling it ‘Asterisk Equality’ and raises a number of very important points about our need for protection as individuals. As it stands now, ENDA does have certain loopholes that would make it possible for employers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ employees by citing religious views.

It’s simply not enough. Private employers have cited religious views for their discrimination against employees for, literally, centuries, going back to the 19th century and using warped biblical verses to justify slavery. It’s just not enough. Human beings deserve better than “equal treatment except for this”. It’s not fair, it’s not justified, and it’s not right to split the community over a bill that doesn’t even completely ensure the protection of its members.
It’s a compromise by political supporters of the bill that only serves to place queer people like myself in compromised positions.

Voting on the rights of human beings is something that, as a nation, we are very familiar with and I can’t understand why. It’s very bizarre to me that we’ve grown comfortable with the notion of voting on fundamental rights that each human being should have by default of their own existence. From the Reconstruction Amendments to Women’s Suffrage to the Voting Rights Act to ENDA, we’ve put peoples’ lives, safety, and rights on a ballot to be voted on. To watch my unalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness being debated is heart-wrenching in the highest regard. And no matter how the vote on ENDA goes this autumn the queer community will definitely know one thing: that we are still considered second class in the eyes of the very government we elected.

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