The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HR 2015) was introduced Tuesday, April 24, 2007 for the umpteenth time in a row. This time, under a new Democratic controlled congress, it is said to have its best chance at passage. It has been sponsored by many congress persons, many businesses, many organizations, and by the people, but always came up short in passage. This years ENDA is sponsored by Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Deb Pryce (R-OH) and Chris Shays (R-CT). ENDA fairly and simply adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories in Title VII, without placing any undue burden on business. It will be an attempt to add a category to Title VII for the first time since race, religion, physical disability, and gender was added. Even so, is it doomed to fail?
The importance of this amendment is, or should be, obvious. Persons who are of an “alternative” sexual orientation or gender identity have been the victim of hate crimes (those crimes specifically motivated by one factor to the point of “hate”) for many decades. Just like African-Americans, Women, those who are of a certain faith (Jews, Muslims, Pagans), and people with disabilities, there have been crimes committed against people based on a singular identifier, and that identifier is their sexual orientation or their gender identity. People have in the past, and currently still, seek out gays, lesbians, and Transgender and commit violent hate filled and hate directed crimes against these persons. People preach a hate filled rhetoric that calls for the destruction of these identified people. We hear stories of civil rights era lynching's against gay men, the mutilation of Transgender, and the violence against lesbians, yet these people are only protected as “normal” citizens and the crimes committed against them are treated as “normal” standard crimes.
In some states, there are harsher penalties for those crimes committed in the name of hate against those of the protected categories. Many states (at present time 19) feel that there is enough of a reason to add sexual orientation and gender identity to their protected categories of their state level hate crimes laws. Some states have even provided separate laws to protect these same categories from discrimination. The Federal Government, however, does not provide these protections to sexual orientation and gender identity, and the men and women of our congress have been fighting to make sure this is not the case.
However, even in light of the “light at the end of the tunnel” so to say, the light may be fading fast. It has been released that the White House, namely the PRESIDENT, has pledged to veto ENDA if it passes the senate after passing the House on the day it was introduced again. If there was reason enough to not like the President in the past, this is enough reason to question where he stands and what his motivations are. Don't take that incorrectly as hatred of the “Right” or “Republicans”, but as questioning the MAN who is President. The President swears to uphold and defend the people and the constitution when S/he takes office. If there is an obvious category of people who are not being defended, and whom are at the receiving end of hate crimes and discrimination, it is his/her duty to defend them with all means possible. If the men and women who are elected to represent the PEOPLE vote to protect this category of people, then it is the duty of the President to sign said legislation into law. There is an OBVIOUS need for this law, or else it wouldn't have been introduced in some form or fashion every year for over the last decade. The person who “runs the show” needs to either open his eyes, or get them re-examined. To say that all people who are victims of hate crimes need to be protected is true. To say that by adding another category is not needed is false. These are the reasons the White House has said that the ENDA would be vetoed, because all victims of hate crimes need to be protected and defended, yet gays, lesbians, and Transgender are not being protected and many of their attackers get punished with menial sentences, and some times even get off without any “real” punishment.
If we are truly the land of the free, home of the brave, and care about that “damn piece of paper” called the Constitution, we must ensure that persons who are the victim of hate orientated crimes are protected, defended, and those who commit the crime pay for not only the act they committed against the victim, but the crime they committed against all of society. The tablet on the Statue of Liberty says “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...". Mr. President, Members of the Senate… listen to Lady Liberty and pass The Employee Non-Discrimination Act.
Jason P. Ruel
BellaOnline's Gay Lesbiand and HIV/AIDS Editor