A dystopian world where drag queens perform in Christian bookstores, transgender people defecate in the same rooms as women, busloads of gay employees come to work and Christians go underground — these are just some of the things that right-wing groups are saying to scare people into being afraid of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The measure, which has been debated since 1994, would bar employers from firing people based on their sexuality and discriminating against LGBT who are seeking employment, and the Senate is expected to vote and pass the bill tonight.
The idea that you shouldn't be able to fire or not hire someone for being gay isn't that radical. Several states already have laws barring discrimination based on sexuality, but not everyone is on the same page. And the non-discrimination protection that LGBT people would get with ENDA would be on par with those already afforded to veterans, women, the disabled and other minorities. The anti-gay American Family Association organization even explains that "nearly 90% of Fortunate 500 companies have already implemented ENDA-like policies without federal regulations." But instead of arguing that people are in agreement that discrimination sucks, they argue that since these companies have non-discrimination rules there's no need for ENDA.
Politically, the bill has created an opportunity for right-wing lawmakers to pander to their base and prove how against gay rights they can be. And it's also allowed right-wing groups to start using their slippery slope logic and churn out some weird, hateful future fantasies about what will happen if gay people aren't fired for being gay. Here's a brief survey:
Drag Queens at Christian Bookstores
ENDA would force religious business owners and workplaces such as Christian bookstores, religious publishing houses, pre-schools and religious television and radio stations to accept as normal any employee who has had a sex-change surgery, any employee who has changed or is "transitioning" their public "gender identity" (regardless of whether they have had surgery or hormone treatments), transvestites (people who dress as the opposite sex on an occasional basis for emotional or sexual gratification), and drag queens or drag kings (people who dress as the opposite sex for the purpose of entertaining others).
What the Family Research Council fails to mention is that ENDA comes with a series of religious exemptions which covers churches and schools which are geared toward positions which involve teaching and allows them to discriminate based on how closely people follow their religious tenets. And further, churches and Christian publishing houses and those organizations mentioned won't be forced to hire drag queens, transgender people, or whoever the FRC is scared of today because of ENDA — ENDA only protects against wrongful and discriminatory firings and hirings. Also, is there a coven of drag queens just itching to work at Christian bookstores that we just don't know about?
Transgender People in Women's Bathrooms
"An anatomically male employee who claims a female 'gender identity' might be able to demand access to the women’s restroom and locker room," warns the American Family Association in one of its ENDA releases. Do people really believe that a transgender person in the next stall is any more offensive than the person that's already there? I'd argue that men and women, regardless of gender identity, class, and race, are pretty terrible to bathrooms (like Dothraki bad) no matter what.
This is a slippery slope argument which insinuates that being transgender isn't real and that some pervy men will be able to take advantage of transgender rights to look at boobs all day in the locker room. If you're employing a man who's willing to go that far to sexually harass women, then you may have bigger problems than ENDA.
Senator John McCain compared the passage of ENDA to the failure of 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 last week. Again, ENDA isn't forcing a quota in hiring, but that hasn't stopped McCain from making us think of a future of where gay employees are bused to your neighborhood Hooters.
The End of Religious Freedom in America
That's a DVD the FRC is selling for $14.
The End of the Free Market
"The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs," John Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an email, according to Politico. Again, there are plenty of companies who have non-discrimination policies that haven't burned to the ground. And it's probably worth pointing out that various minorities, women, and veterans already have the protections that ENDA seeks to give LGBT people and the American economy has survived.
Photos by: the AP and flickr user: Mr. T in DC