It’s disheartening that despite all the information we have at our fingertips and can quickly disseminate to one another, with the hope that perhaps the more we know, the better we treat each other, we just can’t seem to stop the generally inhumane ways we treat each other. Every day we read about teenagers being bullied for being gay or bisexual or because of racism. Headlines are littered with violence and abuse against minorities worldwide. And right here in the United States, our elected officials, our representatives, just don’t seem to get it.
Now, we are seeing the latest effort to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which appeared on the floor of Congress as early as 1996. ENDA would ban discrimination against gays and transgenders in the workplace. Long supported by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the bill lost by one vote in the Senate that year. At the same time, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by an overwhelming majority. ENDA’s 2007 incarnation passed in the House of Representatives but was shot down in the Senate because it did not include transgenders. But now it’s back and the Senate passed it. It is currently awaiting a vote this week in the House of Representatives. The problem is that it’s more than likely to be killed there as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says that the GOP House majority will vote against it.
This comes as a surprise to some, for a few reasons. No. 1: Many think there is already a federal law prohibiting discrimination against gays and transgenders but it’s only law in 21 states. Why not just make it a federal law? No. 2: With the shutdown fiasco and the seemingly endless issues that continue to divide the GOP, this might be a great opportunity to finally show support for the 8 million people who identify themselves as gay or transgenders, plus their supporters. No. 3: Boehner said the House majority would not support it because it would put a financial burden on businesses due to frivolous litigation. He seems to be missing the fact that we are only talking about 4 percent of the population, and an even smaller percentage of businesses that actually may discriminate against gays and transgenders. With such a small number of people being affected, why waste so much time and energy opposing it?
It’s too bad Boehner and his colleagues can’t just move forward together with the rest of the nation. First, gays and transgenders were added to the list of targets of hate-crime laws; then, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, followed by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down DOMA and Prop 8. Now, same-sex marriage is legal in 15 states and more are expected to be added to the list by the end of the year. Does Boehner really think that such a small percentage of the population can really hurt our economy? Too bad he wasn’t thinking about the economy when he did nothing to prevent the government shutdown. We wish discrimination were a thing of the past. We wish our elected officials would wise up and just move forward with equality for all. But for now, our only option is to wait for Election Day 2014.