Senate approves non-discrimination act supporting LGBT community
November 8, 2013
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The United States Senate has recently passed legislation banning discrimination in the workforce based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The proposed bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), won majority vote in the Senate with 10 Republicans backing the Democrats in support of the act. The final decision was 64 to 32.
Senator Tammy Baldwin released a statement saying, “What we’ve seen on the Senate floor today… is such a restatement of basic American values of freedom, of fairness, and of opportunity.” Baldwin remains the only openly gay Senate member.
Though despite its recent success, the ENDA has yet to receive similar approval on the House of Representatives floor.
Speaker of the House John Boehner has been open about his opposition to the act, stating that the effects of such law would bring an influx of “frivolous” lawsuits from employees who feel they’ve been mistreated in the workforce due to their sexual orientation. Boehner has also said that the act will have a negative effect on businesses.
Apple CEO Tim Cook strongly disagrees with Boehner’s claim, and stated, “Apple’s antidiscrimination policy goes beyond the legal protections U.S. workers currently enjoy under federal law, most notably because we prohibit discrimination against Apple’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees.”
In response to Boehner’s comment, more and more people have been vocal about their opinions on the proposed legislation. Some find Boehner’s predictions regarding lawsuits completely “irrelevant”.
Studies have reported that only a small percentage of lawsuits filed are based on sexual orientation discrimination.
“If people want to sue, then they can go for it; but there’s nothing wrong with implementing this law,” senior Silas Pang said.
Junior Mathilde Zanelly agreed with Pang and said, “Some will definitely get upset [over this type of discrimination] and sue out of opportunistic greed, but there are a lot of people that will really benefit from [the ENDA].”
Pang continued, “But lawsuits aren’t the issue at hand. What’s more important is that I don’t see a reason as to why people of different sexual orientations can’t be hired.”
Like Pang, many supporters of the ENDA believe that a person’s sexual orientation does not determine their capabilities and therefore should not be a deciding factor in the hiring process.
“This law is completely reasonable. I don’t believe that anyone’s sexual orientation would affect his or her work ethic as long as the employee is professional on the job,” said sophomore Kelly Liu.
In spite of the support for the non-discrimination act, some continue to debate certain issues of the ENDA.
Senior Raj Aurora speculated the implications and said, “I think it’s a good law, generally. But similar to debates on affirmative action laws, people feel that in some cases, to meet racial– or in this case, sexual orientation– quotas [to hire employees] will make it easier for certain groups to get jobs than, let’s say, the straight person who’s actually more qualified.”
Apart from this, Aurora believes that the act may even prove “ineffective,” because employers can choose to reason their way out of discrimination accusations by stating that other candidates for the position were simply more qualified.
Due to the ENDA’s victory in the Senate, officials and political analysts believe the legislation will most likely pass in the House as well. Democrats in the Senate are challenging the House to bring the bill to the floor for voting.
Democratic senator Tom Harkin said, “Today is an historic day. In 1964, we passed the Civil Rights Act– none of us were here then of course. And then in 1990, we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act– some of us were here at that time. And now we sort of finished the trilogy.”