By Jennie Sekanics
America often prides itself on being the land of the free and the home of the brave — or at least that’s what its national anthem promises. Yet many gay, lesbian, queer and questioning Americans may be forced to disagree with the lyrics of their own patriotic tune.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that has dwelled and died in the Senate for almost 20 years, was officially passed on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions’ floor on Nov. 7. Although this was a victorious day for Americans everywhere, the issue now rests in the hands of the House, where many political figures remain indifferent due to the unlikelihood of its passing.
This is the first anti-discrimination law that has emerged from Senate since the recent legalization of gay marriage and the former annulment of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy,” according to The Huffington Post. Moreover, Rolling Stone stated that this is the first time in history a transgender employment non-discrimination bill has passed in the Senate.
The Washington Post, however, disclosed that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) claimed that the issue of non-discrimination within the workplace is “too broad and is unnecessary.”
According to Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel, “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.” The same sentiments have prevailed among many Republicans, including Fox newscaster Gretchen Carlson who suggested that the ENDA is a distraction from the unemployment rate and other pressing issues President Obama is currently facing, as she said, “I’m not saying they’re not priorities … What I’m saying is, the timing of it all.”
Yet, Julie Roginsky, a Fox News contributor and Democratic Party strategist, stated quite the opposite. When Carlson asked her about the issue of employment non-discrimination, she replied, “There are millions of lesbians and gay men and women who are not able to get jobs because of who they are.” Although Roginsky firmly agreed that unemployment is a significant issue, it will only be prolonged by excluding deserving Americans from available jobs.
This issue was debated within a two-party system, the bill passed with a bipartisan majority, Rolling Stone stated. Ten Senate Republicans voted for the passing of this bill, making the final count 64-32. Ian Thompson of the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the bill’s bipartisan consensus is indicative of the wide popularity of non-discrimination laws among the general public.
Rick Garcia, gay rights leader and political lobbyist admitted that although the passing of this bill within the House seems far-fetched, he has faith in the American people to help underscore this issue.