The United States Senate looks like its ready to make a huge step in the recognizing the equality of LGBT America and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a measure that would bar anyone from firing someone based on their sexuality. That's a big move for gay rights in this country, where people are just getting around to the idea that you shouldn't be able to fire someone for being gay the same way you can't fire someone for being Catholic, black, or a woman. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the believes he has the 60 votes he needs.
ENDA has been fought for, introduced, and re-introduced to Congress since 1994. And well, that's a lot of time to hear some bad arguments, like these:
Not Being Able to Fire Someone For Being Gay Is Like 'Busing', by John McCain
Despite a strong push from his wife to vote yes on ENDA, Sen. John McCain appears to be voting now. He was asked about any lingering reservations on Wednesday, and compared the measure to desegregation busing and quotas. "Busing was done in the name of equality. Busing was a failure. Quotas were a failure. A lot of people thought they were solutions. They weren't. They bred problems," McCain said. He elaborated:
"I think the young people know we do not need reverse discrimination, they don't believe in quotas and they don't believe in some of the programs we saw in the name of racial equality implemented in the past which turned out to be counterproductive ... Ask people in Boston if busing turned out to be a good idea."
Counterpoint: Its odd that McCain would recall the Boston bus riots, which gave us one of the most infamous images of racism of the Civil Rights Era. But if bussing was a mistake, it was not a mistake to try to end discrimination in public schools against black children. ENDA does not have measures to force employers to hire gays they way bussing forced kids to go to different schools. Employers would still hire the people who can do the job — and they just can't fire them if they find out an employee's gay. But a gay bus does sound kinda fun though, right?
ENDA Gives Gay People Special Protections, by Rick Santorum
"The bill would extend special privileges, not based on a person’s status in our society, but rather based on their lifestyle choice," said Rick Santorum back in 1996 (if ENDA was a person, it'd be old enough to purchase cigarettes).
Counterpoint: Being gay is as much of a choice as being heterosexual is — it's not. You'd think if it were that simple, then wouldn't someone fired for being gay simply just choose to be straight to avoid the bigotry and discrimination? But to Santorum's point of special protections, the right to work is not a "special privilege" in this country and there are already civil rights laws which protect against discrimination based on someone's race, religion, gender, and disability among other things. ENDA would put LGBT people on the same playing field as those people.
ENDA Is a Actually Bigotry Itself, by the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg
Sprigg belongs to the anti-gay group known as the Family Research Council. This summer he stopped by Janet Mefferd's Christian radio show to say how ENDA doesn't tolerate religious people's and religious organizations' intolerance:
Counterpoint: The whole of idea it being someone's religion to be intolerant of someone is a slippery slope. What if it's in your religion to treat someone of a different race terribly, or to beat up kittens? And what about the "treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated" clauses? Anyways, ENDA has religious exemptions, which extend to churches, temples and houses of worship. For example, the Catholic Church isn't going to be forced to hire a gay priest just because EDNA told them to. The Leadership Conference, a US LGBT advocacy group explains the ENDA religious exemptions:
- A complete exemption for houses of worship, parochial and similar religious schools, and missions
- A codification of the so-called "ministerial exemption" recognized by many federal courts, exempting positions at religious organizations that involve the teaching or spreading religion, religious governance, or the supervision of individuals engaged in these activities
- A provision allowing religious organizations, for classes of jobs, to require employees and applicants to conform to a declared set of significant religious tenets, including ones which would bar LGBT people from holding the position
These religious exemptions have made ENDA more palatable to Republicans who might not normally like the bill. Further, these exemptions seem like a begrudging concession since many LGBT organizations aren't fans of it, MetroWeekly reported. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Transgender Law Center released a joint statement in April which stated that the exemptions give a "stamp of legitimacy to LGBT discrimination that our civil rights laws have never given to discrimination based on an individual’s race, sex, national origin, age, or disability."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.