Weiss: ENDA Offers Jobs Protection

Posted April 22, 2010 at 1:41pm

Andrea Lafferty, of the Traditional Values Coalition, published a column on Tuesday suggesting that Representatives will find it difficult to vote for the upcoming Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which is a jobs bill that would provide basic nondiscrimination protections to a class of people who regularly face discrimination.

The Traditional Values Coalition is an anti-gay hate group on the watch list of the Southern Poverty Law Center. TVC raises money by scaring people about gruesome but unlikely events that will result from prohibiting discrimination. Its claims demean gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and our lives and do nothing to help this Congress address the high level of job discrimination that puts many of us in the unemployment line.

ENDA is designed to redress the persistent job discrimination levied against people in this country based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, problems demonstrated by the many studies cited by experts in their fields at Congressional hearings on ENDA. Further, both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association support passage of ENDA because ending discrimination is such an important goal.

Hard work and fair treatment are core American values and no person should be denied the opportunity to work because of personal characteristics unrelated to job performance. Improvements in the nation’s current economic crisis hinge on the talents and expertise of a fully functioning workplace. An analysis of Census 2000 data shows a strong link between thriving tech-oriented economies and diverse populations, including those with high LGBT populations. Workplace equity encourages regional growth centers, as top-notch employees have migrated to centers where they can be assured that their talents will not be suppressed because of legal inequities and arbitrary prejudices. ENDA will ensure that all Americans have an equal playing field as they seek to secure a livelihood for their families and grow our communities.

Analyses of existing studies and new data suggest that up to two-thirds of LGB people — and nearly all transgender people — have experienced employment discrimination, including overt discrimination, firing, denial of promotion or negative performance evaluation (based on bias).

In addition, up to 30 percent of heterosexual co-workers report witnessing discrimination against their non-heterosexual peers.
ENDA is essential to addressing this widespread problem.

Polls show that more than 70 percent of Americans favor a law against firing or harassing people just because they are gay. A majority of the Congress is in favor of this job protection bill that will bring fairness and equity to America’s labor market. Nondiscrimination is a principle that has served our country well over the past 60 years, both socially and economically. Imagine what our lives would look like if we had listened to the people committed to frightening us about the results of anti-discrimination efforts in the 1950s and 1960s. We should also give no credence today to the strident opposition of panicking ultra-conservative groups that make their living from telling horror stories about anti-discrimination efforts, when what LGBT people are trying to do is simply American — get and keep jobs. We simply want to work to support ourselves and our families. ENDA has been designed to help achieve that goal.

Dr. Jillian T. Weiss is an associate professor of law and society at Ramapo College of New Jersey and associate editor at the Bilerico Project, an LGBT political blog.