Part of the problem with the debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is that much of the public assumes existing law is already adequate. Just a couple of months ago, a national survey found 75% of the country believes it’s already illegal under federal law to discriminate against LGBT Americans in the workforce.
Even House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who presumably should know better, has refused to allow a simple vote on ENDA. Asked why, the Ohio Republican said in November, “I am opposed to discrimination of any kind in the workplace or anyplace else, but I think this legislation … is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits. People are already protected in the workplace.”
We’re occasionally reminded that people are not already protected in the workplace. Jennifer Bendery reported today:
The mayor of a tiny South Carolina town has triggered protests, prayer vigils and even a city council vote to weaken his powers after firing longtime police chief Crystal Moore, who is a lesbian and who some believe is a target of the mayor’s homophobia. […]Latta Mayor Earl Bullard fired Moore on Tuesday soon after she received seven reprimands, which alleged that she had failed to maintain order and questioned authority, among other offenses, according to a report by WBTW News 13. The reprimands were the first Moore ever received after more than 20 years on the job. What’s more, members of the city council said Bullard, who just became mayor in December, broke with protocol by not giving Moore a verbal or written warning for any wrongdoing, or discussing the matter with the council before taking action.
In a situation like this one, it’s best not to jump to conclusions about why a fired employee was dismissed – the new mayor didn’t explicitly say Moore’s ouster was the result of anti-gay animus – but local reporting doesn’t seem to leave much doubt as to what transpired in Latta, South Carolina.
Indeed, the local CBS affiliate reported on an audio recording in which the mayor went on an anti-gay tirade while talking to a city councilman.
“I would much rather have … and I will say this to anybody’s face … somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.“Because that ain’t the damn way it’s supposed to be. You know … you got people out there – I’m telling you buddy – I don’t agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don’t say anything because that is the way they want to live, but I am not going to let my child be around.“I’m not going to let two women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it. And I’m not going to see them do it with two men neither. I’m not going to do it. Because that ain’t the way the world works.“Now, all these people showering down and saying ‘Oh it’s a different lifestyle they can have it.’ Ok, fine and dandy, but I don’t have to look at it and I don’t want my child around it.”
With this in mind, let’s say for the sake of conversation that accusations are accurate and the mayor fired the sheriff because she’s a lesbian. No matter how good a job she was doing, no matter how many years she devoted to the job, no matter how much support she has in the local community, let’s say the mayor ignored every other consideration and showed the sheriff the door because he doesn’t like her sexual orientation.
That would be legal.
Under current law, employers can’t discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, national origin, disability, or genetic information. The point of ENDA is to extend protections to include sexual orientation and sexual identity.
And ENDA, which has already passed the Senate, might even pass the House and become law, but Boehner, who thinks “people are already protected in the workplace,” won’t allow the House to vote on it.