The House Must Pass ENDA

Editor’s note: Reed Waxham is the Vista del Lago High School ASB Vice-president, Communications Director and a political contributor for The Vista Voice. The opinions expressed in this column are his own.

Last Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly and bipartisanly passed legislation that aims to prevent discrimination against gay and transgender individuals in the workplace. It is time for House Republicans to step up and support these common sense protections. Speaker John Boehner should do the right thing and schedule a vote for the bill.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “there are no state laws in 29 states that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.” LGBT individuals in those states deserve the same rights afforded to all other Americans.

Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have signaled that ENDA is dead on arrival in the House. They believe that the bill will lead to unwarranted lawsuits and be a job killer.

If the House Republican leadership holds this line, they will be allowing people to suffer from unnecessary and detrimental discrimination. They would also be going against the wishes of more than two-thirds of voters “including a strong majority of Republicans – [who] support a federal law protecting LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace,” according to the HRC.

Pro-gay group GetEQUAL, has criticized the bill as too generous with religious-freedom protections. They are referring to exemptions in the bill that exempt any religious organization from the law, allowing them to continue to be able to exclude gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees.

GetEQUAL has called on President Obama to circumvent the opposition from the House GOP by issuing an executive order that would bar companies from doing business in the U.S. if it doesn’t “voluntarily” adopt the bill’s provisions.

“As we wait for Speaker Boehner to move this bill forward, it is imperative for President Obama to lead by example, and to sign his name to an Executive Order that would protect nearly 25 percent of this country’s workforce from workplace discrimination,” the group said in a statement. This, however, is a lofty and unrealistic goal.

They should be putting political pressure on Speaker Boehner by gaining support from the public. When it is politically advantageous for the Republicans to pass the bill, they will. The GOP needs to “evolve” on the issue, the same way Democrats have been evolving on gay marriage.

Our generation of Americans views civil rights in a very simple way: if it is the right thing to do, do it. Don’t make excuses, push it off or change the focus. If the Republican party wants to remain a national party as our generation ages, it’s time they evolve.