Rep. Lankford’s Doubletalk on Discrimination

A couple weeks ago, Rep. James Lankford, a Republican (duh) from Oklahoma, told Think Progress that he thinks it should be legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation. This week he doubled down on it and went on a wingnut radio show to defend himself, babbling like an idiot in the process. Here’s what he told TP:

STRASSER: Would you support a law that says you can’t fire someone for their sexual orientation –

KEYES: Similar to protections for people on race or gender?

LANKFORD: Well, you’re now dealing with behavior and I’m trying to figure out exactly what you’re trying to mean by that. Because you’re dealing with — race and sexual preferences are two different things. One is a behavior-related and preference-related and one is something inherently — skin color, something obvious, that kind of stuff. You don’t walk up to someone on the street and look at them and say, “Gay or straight?”

KEYES: But you think that even if you can’t see they’re that way, you don’t think someone is born gay necessarily?

LANKFORD: Do I personally? No. I don’t. I think it’s a choice issue. Are tendencies and such? Yes. But I think it’s a choice issue.

And here’s what he said on Tony Perkins’ radio show:

Perkins: The idea there is they’re looking for special protections; your point is that everybody should be treated equally, no one should be fired or denied employment based upon their sexual orientation, in the ideal world we won’t even know about it, why would we even ask that question?

Lankford: Right. But neither should you have a situation where no one can fire you because of your behavior outside of the workplace, we also should not be in a situation where there are special protections extended to say ‘if I have a certain sexual behavior then you can no longer fire me, I’m a protected class and I can do whatever I want in the workplace,’ that’s not true either. So we are trying to be able to keep that balance, when you say you create special rights you also create special privileges and protections to say that they are untouchable in the workplace and they can have any kind of work conduct they choose to on that, that’s not correct. This is one of those instances where we look at every individual as created in the image of God, every person as valuable to God but every person has to be able to show that they are going to work hard and do the right thing in the workplace and outside.

Great, so you’re fine with removing religion as a prohibited basis for discrimination, right? People change their religion all the time, so it’s clearly a choice. They’re obviously demanding “special protections” that should only be accorded based on immutable traits, right? Right? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Troublesome Frog

    The question I never hear asked: Would it be OK to fire somebody if you found out that they were in an interracial marriage?

    In fact, is that legal under current law? Can you fire somebody based on the races of the people they choose associate with?

  • Tualha

    Would be nice if the voters in his district demonstrated that it’s okay to fire someone for their politics – at least if he’s your Congressman. Sadly, most of the voters in his district probably like him just fine.

  • justsomeguy

    “But neither should you have a situation where no one can fire you because of your behavior outside of the workplace”

    Horrifying. Once a person is off the clock and off their employer’s property, what they do with themselves is none of the employer’s business. To suggest that an employer has authority over its employees while they’re not being paid is disturbingly close to endorsing slavery.

  • d cwilson

    But neither should you have a situation where no one can fire you because of your behavior outside of the workplace,

    His use a double negative here means he’s saying people should be fired for their behavior outside the workplace.

    we also should not be in a situation where there are special protections extended to say ‘if I have a certain sexual behavior then you can no longer fire me, I’m a protected class and I can do whatever I want in the workplace,’

    Strawman alert! Not being allowed to fire someone because they’re gay doesn’t mean you can’t fire them for performance issues in the workplace.

  • Trebuchet

    Great, so you’re fine with removing religion as a prohibited basis for discrimination, right? People change their religion all the time, so it’s clearly a choice. They’re obviously demanding “special protections” that should only be accorded based on immutable traits, right? Right? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    Actually, I expect he’s just fine with firing someone on the basis of their religion, as long as it’s anything but fundagelical Christian. Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims (especially Muslims), even Catholics and Jews should be fair game.

  • eric

    Is it just me, or is that last paragraph a complete mishmash? Even after reading @4 and rereading the original, he seems to be mixing up actions in the workplace and actions outside of it.

    @3: that’s a general rule with a LOT of exceptions (example: if I reveal corporate secrets off the clock, hell yeah I can be fired for it). I think the law should ideally be trying to dissociate dismissals that have a rational connection to your peformance from dismissals for completely extraneous reasons. I sleep with my spouse at home? Completely extraneous to most jobs. Keep a picture of them on my desk? Also completely extraneous to most jobs, even though its “in the workplace” behavior.

    The in/out of the physical workplace is maybe a 60% solution, in that it is a good proxy measure for whether someone is wasting company time or not. But really what we should be aiming for is rational firings legal, irrational firings illegal.

  • John Hinkle

    eric@6:

    Is it just me, or is that last paragraph a complete mishmash?

    My eyes glazed over while reading it, until he mentioned God. Then the translator had to rewind and process it again. It came out as:

     

    Right. But neither should you have a situation blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah God blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah God blah blah blah blah …

     

    It was then I realized he wasn’t actually speaking English.

  • dan4

    Inhofe, Tom Cole, Daniel Boren (a “Democrat” in the Zell Miller mold), this numbskull…is there something in the water regarding Oklahoma and politicians?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Lankford seems to suffer particular conceptual difficulties when faced by any entity with the initials T.P.

    This could lead to significant personal hygiene problems…