Should Federal Law Protect People from Job Discrimination Based on their Sexual Orientation?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
David M. Herszenhorn, reporter for the New York Times, wrote the following information in his Nov. 8, 2007 New York Times article titled "House Approves Broad Protections for Gay Workers":

"The House on Wednesday [Nov. 7, 2007] approved a bill granting broad protections against discrimination in the workplace for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, a measure that supporters praised as the most important civil rights legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 but that opponents said would result in unnecessary lawsuits.

The bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act [ENDA], is the latest version of legislation that Democrats have pursued since 1974...

The House bill would make it illegal for an employer 'to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation.'

While 19 states and Washington, D.C., have laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, and many cities offer similar protections, federal law offers no such shield, though it does bar discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, disability and pregnancy."

[Editor's Note: On Nov. 7, 2007, ENDA legislation - H.R. 3685 was passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 235 to 184. As of May 27, 2009, it has not yet been voted on in the Senate.]

Nov. 8, 2007 - David M. Herszenhorn 

PRO (yes)

Barney Frank, JD, former United States House Representative (D-MA), made the following comments during a Nov. 7, 2007 House floor speech, advocating passage of "The Employment Non-Discrimination Act":

"35 years ago I filed a bill that tried to get rid of discrimination based on sexual orientation... I used to be someone subject to this prejudice, and through luck, circumstance, I got to be a big shot. I'm now above that prejudice. But, I feel an obligation to 15 year olds dreading to go to school because of the torments, to people who are afraid they'll lose their job in a gas station if someone finds out who they love. I feel an obligation to use the status I have been lucky enough to get to help them...

I want to ask my colleagues here Mr. Speaker, on a personal basis, please, don't fall for this sham. What we have here is a ploy by people who want to keep discrimination on the books, who want to deny protection to so many victims of discrimination... Don't send me out of here having failed to help those people... There are people who are your fellow citizens being discriminated against. We have a simple bill that says you can go to work and be judged on how you work and not be penalized. Please don't turn your back on them."

Nov. 7, 2007 - Barney Frank, JD 

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a non-profit civil rights organization, stated in a July 2, 2004 press release by its President, Cheryl Jacques:

"Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin - but does not explicitly include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. Imagine that.

Workplace protections exist to ensure that all Americans will have equal opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. While it is against the law to fire someone because of their skin color, or to refuse to hire someone because of their gender, or to harass someone in the workplace because of their religion - there is no federal law that protects GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transexual] Americans from those forms of workplace discrimination...

Today, it is time for the country to wake up and realize that there is still work to be done in order for this nation to meet the promise of full equality for all."

July 2, 2004 - Human Rights Campaign 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated in its website article titled "Fight Discrimination Against Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Workers by supporting the 'Employment Non-Discrimination Act'" (accessed Dec. 16, 2004):

"Across most of the United States, it is perfectly legal to fire someone from their job solely because of their sexual orientation. Federal law could remedy this sorry state, but for the last several years, Congress has been unable to agree on legislation that would outlaw discrimination in the workplace based on real or perceived sexual orientation... People should be judged at work by their performance, not by whom they choose to love."

Dec. 16, 2004 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 

The Williams Institute, a research think tank of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, published the following information in its Nov. 2008 study "Evidence of Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Complaints Filed with State Enforcement Agencies 1999-2007":

"During the 2007 legislative debate, as in prior debates, opponents of ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] advanced two arguments based on the incidence of sexual orientation discrimination. Some contended that the bill would inundate the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and federal courts with trivial claims, lowering the overall effectiveness of the EEOC and the judiciary (the 'flood' argument). Others argued that the law is simply unnecessary because there are few cases of sexual orientation discrimination occurring in the workplace (the 'drought' argument)...

As the debate surrounding the necessity of LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender] protections reenters the national discourse, a population-adjusted understanding of complaint rates is necessary. [Our] report questions two of the main arguments used to attack the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. First, there is no 'drought.' Sexual orientation non-discrimination laws are used on a regular basis - comparable to the frequencies at which race and sex rights laws are utilized. Second, state agencies are not vulnerable to any debilitating 'flood' of additional complaints. Given the size of the LGB [Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual] population, and the filing rates of LGB people, any increase in complaint intake would be negligible on the national level. Sweeping generalizations of 'floods' and 'droughts' are empirically unsound. The data suggest that sexual orientation employment protections are necessary and manageable."

Nov. 2008 - Williams Institute 

CON (no)

The Concerned Women for America (CWA), a Christian public policy women's organization, stated in their Dec. 16, 1996 article "The Homosexual Agenda," published on their website,

"This group [homosexuals] does not even appear to suffer from 'widespread' discrimination in the workplace. In fact, homosexuals do far better financially than most Americans. According to Overlooked Opinions, a homosexual polling firm, the annual income of homosexual households is 41 percent higher than the national average. In addition, nearly half of all gay households include someone holding a professional/managerial job. And Businessweek noted that homosexuals are five times more likely than the average American to earn $100,000 a year...

So if sexual orientation discrimination is not a 'widespread' problem in America, why are homosexual activists so determined to push legislation like ENDA [The Employment Non-Discrimination Act] through? The answer is simple: social acceptance. Homosexual activists want more than simply to be treated fairly, they want America's stamp of approval on their lifestyle. And ENDA was one more step in that direction.

It's time Americans examine the facts about discrimination in the workplace and recognize that 'sexual orientation' discrimination is little more than a thinly veiled effort to push the acceptance of homosexuality on our society."

Dec. 16, 1996 - Concerned Women for America (CWA) 

Mike Pence, JD, United States House Representative (R-IN), made the following comments during a Nov. 7, 2007 House floor speech opposing passage of "The Employment Non-Discrimination Act":

"Let me be clear that I am not condoning discrimination against people for any reason whatsoever. I believe in civility and decency in society. The problem here is that by extending the reach of federal law to cover sexual orientation employment discrimination protections, in effect, can wage war on the free exercise of religion in the workplace. In effect... this sets up something of a Constitutional conflict between the right to religious freedom in the workplace and another person's newly created right to sue you for practicing your faith or acknowledging your faith in the workplace.

Some examples under ENDA [The Employment Non-Discrimination Act] would mean employees around the country who possess religious beliefs that are opposed to homosexual behavior would be forced, in effect, to lay down their rights and convictions at the door. For example, if an employee keeps a Bible in his or her cubicle, if an employee displays a Bible verse on their desk, that employee could be claimed by a homosexual colleague to be creating a hostile work environment because the homosexual employee objects to passages in the Bible relating to homosexuality.

We must stand for the right of every American to practice their faith according to the dictates of their conscience whether it be in the public square or in the workplace. I oppose the Employment Non Discrimination Act and urge my colleagues to do likewise."

Nov. 7, 2009 - Mike Pence, JD 

The Family Research Council (FRC), in its Dec. 20, 2000 website article "Homosexuality Is Not a Civil Right," by Daniel S. Garcia and Robert E. Regier, stated:

"Essential to the homosexual agenda is the idea that homosexuals are fighting for basic civil rights denied them by an oppressive society. This argument strikes a sympathetic chord among many Americans, whose decency and sense of fair play demand that all people be treated fairly.

However, a closer look at the truth about homosexuality and the political goals of the 'gay rights' movement shows that homosexuals are not an oppressed minority, that opposition to special legal protection for homosexuality is not bigotry, and that extending such protection is dangerous to individuals and society...

What homosexuals are actually calling for is not equal protection but special protection."

Dec. 20, 2000 - Family Research Council 

The Republican Policy Committee, a group of Republican senators, stated in their May 7, 2002 report titled "The ENDA-Scope," that:

"ENDA's [The Employment Non-Discrimination Act] scope is extraordinary and unprecedented...

The act speaks to 'sexual orientation,' but it is sexual behavior that is at the heart of ENDA. For example, must every employer who has religious or moral scruples about homosexuality treat the celibate or continent homosexual exactly the same as the promiscuous homosexual?...

Does 'sexual orientation' encompass a person's lifestyle, speech, mannerisms, or dress? If a woman shows up at work wearing a tee-shirt that says, 'Lesbian Avengers - We Recruit'... can her employer send her home to change, or is her tee-shirt protected as part of her 'sexual orientation'? What if the second clause of the slogan accurately describes what the woman attempts at her workplace, i.e., to acquire lesbian acolytes? Is that activity protected under the bill? Even if the objects of her attention are young children or adolescents?"

May 7, 2002 - Republican Policy Committee