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LGBT workers should hide their sexual orientation, says Rep. Gohmert

Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert weighed in on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act yesterday afternoon, after giving a speech at an anti-IRS rally with fe

Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert weighed in on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act yesterday afternoon, after giving a speech at an anti-IRS rally with fellow Tea Partiers.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is designed to protect LGBT individuals from being fired, denied employment, or harassed at the workplace because of their sexual orientation.

When Gohmert was approached by a reporter from Think Progress after an anti-IRS Tea Party rally yesterday, the congressman reportedly expressed confusion over what the ENDA legislation entailed. “I’m not aware of exactly which one you’re talking about,” he said.

When the reporter explained that the legislation would provide workplace protections for the LGBT community, Gohmert did in fact have an opinion. “Who wants to go talking about sexual orientation when they're working? Good grief," he said.

Gohmert seems to be suggesting that the only time sexual orientation could become an issue at the workplace would be if someone decided to announce to their colleagues that they happen to be gay.

That fact is, it would be tough to form a professional relationship with colleagues without at some point having a discussion about your family. How about putting a wedding picture on your desk? Discussing how and with whom you spent the weekend? Taking the day off to care for a sick spouse or partner?

As the Daily Kos points out, Gohmert’s own biography on the House of Representatives website would be an issue. “Today, he and his wife Kathy are the proud parents of three daughters,” it states.

Gohmert is not alone in demonstrating something of a disconnect on the issue of discrimination towards LGBT individuals, and how discrimination can operate at the workplace.

When Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson was asked for his take on ENDA recently, he explained that while he has had gay and lesbian individuals working for him, he said, “I don’t particularly like the federal government telling anybody to do anything.”

In Idaho, GOP lawmakers launched an effort to undo legislation that provided workplace protections for LGBT employees. Cornel Rasor, the state GOP's Resolutions Committee chairman, explained his reasoning.

"I’d hire a gay guy if I thought he was a good worker. But if he comes into work in a tutu … he’s not producing what I want in my office," Rasor said. "If a guy has a particular predilection and keeps it to himself, that’s fine,” he continued. “But if he wants to use my business as a platform for his lifestyle, why should I have to subsidize that? And that’s what these anti-discrimination laws do."

The message here is clear. The only way for LGBT individuals to earn and maintain employment free from discrimination would be to hide not only their sexuality, but virtually every part of their personal life from colleagues they see on a daily basis. If they fail to do so, any harassment or discrimination is, in effect, their fault.

Discrimination and fear of discrimination in the workplace is no small factor for the LGBT community. A recent study from the Center for American Progress concluded that “LGBT workers and their families often are held back by bias, fewer workplace benefits, and higher taxes.”