News Articles

House passes ‘homosexual rights’ job bill for first time

WASHINGTON (BP)–The House of Representatives comfortably approved workplace protections based on “sexual orientation” Nov. 7, handing the homosexual activist movement a groundbreaking victory.

The House’s 235-184 vote for the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) marked the first time either chamber of Congress has passed such legislation, but it appears unlikely the bill will become law -– at least this year. The White House already has indicated a veto is probable if it reaches President Bush, and the House roll call was more than 40 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override. The Senate has yet to act on the measure.

Representatives of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-family organizations lamented the House action.

“This is a bad bill with bad consequences for our nation,” ERLC President Richard Land said, “and I am extremely hopeful, if it were by some strange happenstance to pass the Senate, the president would follow through on his signals to veto this really bad bill.”

ENDA would make discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” illegal in such areas as hiring, firing and compensation for both the private and public workplace. According to the legislation, “sexual orientation” encompasses “homosexuality, bisexuality or heterosexuality,” whether “actual or perceived.” The measure would treat “sexual orientation” in similar fashion to other federally protected categories, such as race, gender, age and religion.

Some but possibly not all religious organizations are exempted from the bill’s requirements, as are the military and businesses with fewer than 15 employees.

Among the reasons the ERLC and others give for opposing the legislation are:

— The bill will establish rights for a category that does not rise to the level of unchangeable traits, which include race and gender.

— It would infringe on the religious rights of some religious-themed businesses, such as Christian bookstores, as well as those of other employers and employees who consider homosexual behavior sinful.

— The measure would open the door to a flood of lawsuits by advocates of homosexuality.

— It could pave the way for the legalization of “same-sex marriage.”

ENDA, H.R. 3685, establishes a “legal quagmire for employees who practice, or even acknowledge, their religious beliefs -– depending on where they happen to work and subject to judicial interpretation,” House Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri said in a written statement. He called the bill a “clear boon to trial lawyers.”

Matt Barber, a policy director at Concerned Women for America, said in a written release ENDA’s supporters have “drawn a black line through the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. It’s hard to imagine the [founding fathers] agreeing that newfangled ‘gay rights,’ based on changeable sexual behaviors, should trump the First Amendment.”

Land sent a Nov. 6 letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio to reiterate the ERLC’s opposition to ENDA. He also signed on to a letter sent the day before to all House members urging them to vote against the measure. Among the other 62 signers of that letter were representatives of Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Exodus International, Alliance Defense Fund, Concerned Women for America and American Family Association.

Homosexual activist leader Joe Solmonese described the vote as the “making of civil rights history.”

“Our fight for equality will not be won overnight,” Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a written statement. “It will be won one step at a time, and we will not give up until we reach the finish line. This is a critical piece of legislation and a major step toward the finish line for all Americans.”

HRC, the country’s largest homosexual activist organization, and others in the movement were displeased the House-approved version did not include protection for transgendered people. Rep. Barney Frank, D.-Mass., the bill’s sponsor and an open homosexual, pulled language covering transgenders from the measure in September, saying there was not enough support in the House to pass legislation including such protection.

Transgender is an umbrella term for “people who live all or substantial portions of their lives expressing an innate sense of gender other than their birth sex,” according to HRC. The transgender category includes transsexuals and cross-dressers.

In a floor speech before the vote, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California also expressed disappointment the bill did not include transgender protection. Pelosi said, however, she had “looked forward to this day” during her two decades in Congress and called the vote a “joyous occasion.”

Thirty-five Republicans joined 200 Democrats to vote in favor of ENDA, while 25 Democrats and 159 GOP members opposed the bill.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau for Baptist Press. ERLC intern Erica Simons contributed to this article.