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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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If you support equality, support ENDA

By Anastasia Niedrich

It is currently legal in 31 states to fire an employee based on their sexual orientation. It is also legal in 39 states to fire an employee based on their gender identity. It should come as no surprise to anyone, especially a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer person living here, that Utah falls into both of these categories.

A bill currently being debated in Congress, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, would extend fair employment practices under federal law to the GLBTQ community. ENDA is based on the principle that every worker should be judged on merit and job performance, not their sexual preferences or identity.

While ENDA would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most workplaces, it would not apply to small businesses, most religious organizations or the military, and would not require employers to provide benefits to same-sex partners. ENDA would merely provide basic non-discrimination protections to GLBTQ persons where they are non-comprehensive or nonexistent now.

GLBTQ rights organizations have been attempting to pass ENDA legislation for almost 30 years, but the legislation has never been as close to passing as it is right now. A few weeks ago, a version of the bill passed in the Senate with almost two-thirds majority, but the House has since stripped some protections from the bill so that the current proposed version of the bill would not protect transgender or transsexual persons from gender identity discrimination.

Opponents of ENDA legislation usually cite three reasons for opposing it: a) a lack of statistics to prove GLBTQ employment discrimination is a widespread enough problem to warrant nationwide legislation, b) additional burdens that would allegedly be placed upon businesses that would have to comply with the laws, and c) that protecting GLBTQ people from employment discrimination would be against some peoples’ values.

Proponents of ENDA legislation usually respond to their opponents’ assertions as follows: a) current government statistics are not required to track incidents of discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity. ENDA would provide for such tracking to record more evidence of this widespread problem and need for these protections, b) it is actually in businesses’ best interests to employ and promote the best qualified candidate, period (regardless of their sexual orientation or other factors), and c) as the military, religious organizations and relevant others would not be required to adhere to ENDA’s mandates, most moral conflicts between organizations with principles in opposition to those of ENDA would be avoided.

Principally, ENDA makes so much sense to me that I can hardly understand why people oppose it — especially in its current form where the military and religious organizations would not be forced to comply with the ENDA laws against their principles.

Whether you believe that being GLBTQ is an immutable characteristic you are born with (like race) or a lifestyle decision based on your feelings and beliefs (like religion), all employees should be treated equally. Think of it this way: would you consider it okay for an employer to refuse to promote someone because they are non-Caucasian? Or Mormon? If you believe that queers are “born that way,” as people are born members of a certain race, then you should be for passing ENDA on that comparative basis. If you believe queers are queer due to a choice they make, as people choose to be members of certain religions, then you should still be for passing ENDA on the same comparative basis.

Workplace discrimination all boils down to a single question: should an employer legally be able to consider any factors aside from an employee’s job performance and qualifications in hiring, firing and promotion decisions? When deciding who to promote, should it matter if someone is gay or a transsexual if they’re the best qualified candidate for the job?

As this week is GLBTQ Pride Week here at the U, there’s really no better time for all of us to examine our feelings on ENDA and employment discrimination against GLBTQ people. Look at the comparisons between being queer and being a member of a race or religion. Then ask yourself if you would want to go to work each day with the fear that you’d lose your job because of a choice you made or how you were born? If I were a betting woman, I’d wager we’d all rather be evaluated at work based on our work performance than for who we love, how we were born or what we believe. If you feel this way, support passage of ENDA.

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