ENDA and Bully Politics

GAY RIGHTS march

The United States Senate is quietly passing a law, known by the acronym ENDA, (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that will place homosexuals in the same protected class as African Americans.

Personally, I am in favor of civil rights for gay people. They have the right to live their lives as they chose and to love whomever they want. They definitely should not be subjected to unjust discrimination. Homosexuals are human beings and American citizens.

However, I want the laws we pass to be just for everyone. Laws that seek to create a super category of citizen whose rights trump those of other citizens are, on their face, unjust laws. I am particularly concerned about issues of religious freedom.

I am also concerned about the way that Congress approaches legislation these days. I would wager that there are two incentives behind this particular bill. One is to pass a “hero deal” for the gay rights community. The motive for his is to pull gay activists and their dollars even closer to the Democratic Party. The other is to force the Republican House to either pass the bill and thus enrage a large part of their own base, or to kill and it and thus motivate the Democratic base.

One thing I’m reasonably sure is not under serious consideration is the impact ENDA would have on the lives and freedoms of ordinary Americans. I doubt if the question as to whether or not this is a good piece of legislation has been seriously discussed in the halls of Congress by either side of the debate.

According to a letter that the United States Conference of Bishops sent to members of the United States Senate, this proposed law would threaten religious liberty, support the redefinition of marriage, and reject the biological definition of gender. Those are serious charges, which should open the legislation for debate and amendment.

In the current climate, it is a stand-up action for the bishops to speak against this legislation. They, the Church, and faithful Catholics along with them, will be excoriated and called bigots and worse for having the temerity to suggest that the language of this legislation is flawed and too one-sided.

All this raises a couple of questions. First, is every piece of legislation that the gay rights community supports, by definition, good legislation that should not be debated, amended or critiqued for its content? Second, is expressing concern about bad language and specific components of a piece of legislation that is supported by gay rights advocates automatically, and by definition, an act of bigotry?

Have we reached the point where people of good will are unable to discuss legislation on its merits because of the mindless rhetoric and name-calling that is used to promote it?

I have the impression that Congress has moved past being a deliberative body and entered the arena of bully politics and don’t-read-the-bill-it-will-only-make-it-harder-to-vote-for-it.

I’ve done some of this myself, so I know a little bit about the emotions that push it. When a powerful special interest group wants something, every law-maker knows that the political price of opposing it will be terrible. If the special interest — in this case, gay rights advocates — wants something, and they are known for being a group that can turn on a dime and attack with intent to destroy in a personal way anyone who opposes them, the stakes grow higher.

If the special interest in question is also one that a law-maker has supported and been supported by in the past, the hill to climb to vote against or even amend a piece of legislation the special interest wants becomes a job-losing mountain.

Hence, the motivation to not read the bill. It’s easier to vote for a bad bill if you don’t read it or think about it or let yourself listen to requests to revise it.

I imagine the bishops would be happy to support a piece of legislation that addressed genuine discrimination against any group of people, and certainly something that addressed genuine discrimination against homosexuals.

It is truly a shame that Congress no longer deliberates about the legislation it passes, but just lines up the votes according to political consideration and then rams things through to see if they will hurt the opposing party in the next election.

I miss Congress. Congress matters.

Here is a copy of the letter issued by the USCCB concerning this law.

 

Bishop s end letter

Bishop s letter 2

  • Bill S

    People have to recognize one essential fact: no one can in any way discriminate against anyone else for the sole reason that what that person does is not allowed by one’s religion. To do so is not what religious freedom is all about. It is not a defense to say that one must, by one’s religious beliefs, discriminate against another person. Discrimination should not be mandated by any religion seeking religious tolerance for itself. It is the one religious practice that cannot be tolerated, even under the First Amendment.

    • SisterCynthia

      Presumably you find it utterly moral, ethical and appropriate to force people to directly violate their religious conscience when a self-proclaimed “victim” demands they do so, so that the “victim” does not have to exercise their freedom to act by choosing to walk down the street to another employer or service provider who has no qualms about hiring or serving them whatever they want. It is unfortunate that you are so happy to sacrifice the rights granted citizens by the constitution. Not that you are alone in this willingness to trade someone else’s rights away for the assumed Greater Good. I am quite sure those who wanted Germany “cleansed” felt the same way. As did those who wanted the various Indian tribes rounded up and either killed or put on reservations. Unfortunately, a willingness to sell out someone you don’t like or agree with, who is not actually harming others, doesn’t make you morally superior.

      • Bill S

        I am quite sure those who wanted Germany “cleansed” felt the same way. As did those who wanted the various Indian tribes rounded up and either killed or put on reservations.

        Make whatever ridiculous comparisons you want. No religion should require its followers to willfully discriminate against gays and tell them to “walk down the street to another employer or service provider”. What kind of people do something like that?

        • FW Ken

          The real question is how many people do something like that?

          That gay rights advocates exaggerate the whole victim-status is known, but how much? How many gay people lose their jobs not because they are gay, but because they are lazy, obnoxious, or just plain mean? How much violence is there really against gays.because of their sexual preference, and how much because, like Matthew Shepherd, they are heavy into the drug scene?

          • hamiltonr

            Actually, the issue is whether or not a group of people are being denied their civil right in an organized, endemic and ubiquitous way that it justifies taking rights away from other citizens to ensure that they receive their civil rights. There was a time, and it wasn’t too long ago, where in terms of violence against homosexuals, this was the case. Young men would go around “beating up fags” and the police didn’t enforce the laws against it. I have personal experience of this with my friends. In fact, I intervened with the police here in Oklahoma about this back in the 1980s because a friend of mine was beaten up and the police would not enforce the law to protect him. That is a clear violation of civil rights, and I believe it was widespread at the time. There may have been job discrimination, but I don’t think it was ever as bad. My feeling is that these are problems of the past, not the present. The gay rights movement has been so successful that now people are actually afraid to oppose any of their initiatives for fear of being slandered, verbally hazed, etc. They feel free to take on corporations and bully them into compliance with legislative positions they support, and they are quite successful at doing this. Rather than no one doing anything to stop gay bashing, it has become something that is not allowed.

            Much of this is good. In fact, the only part of really object to is the use of slander and character assassination of those who differ on political positions. That is reprehensible.

            In my opinion, these advances in the position of homosexuals in our society have rendered legislation such as ENDA unnecessary.

            From what I’ve read, ENDA is such a bad law that it will create discrimination against other groups of people. All this while trying to “fix” a problem that is rapidly fixing itself.

            • FW Ken

              Rebecca, you expounded on what I was trying to get at, but more eloquently. Of course.

              In my part of the world it was called “rolling queers” and yes, it happened. I would be surprised if it doesn’t happen today, although, again, it’s easy to mix getting rolled bacause you are gay with coming out of a bar drunk at 2am in a sleazy neighborhood and getting robbed.

              A few years ago, a local gay bar got tossed and a drunk guy fell and sustained head injury. It being a gay bar, harassment and prejudice was claimed. It was national news for days, and generated a breast-beating and expensive investigation. Well, the cops did violate procedures, but was it gay-bashing?

            • John Pack Lambert

              One problem though is that being employed is not a clear civil right. Not in US law. Employees are at will, and can be fired at any time in most cases. This is why we have a lower unemployment rate than France, because it is less risky to hire someone, so it is done more often. This law, especially since it includes “perceived” sexual orientation, would undermine that.

        • Dale

          Bill, I think your question is exactly why some organization should draft a piece of model legislation which would represent the values and concerns of the Catholic bishops.

          The letter from the USCCB is likely to confuse many people, First it affirms that homosexuals should not be unjustly discriminated against when it comes to employment. But then it says that there are situations when such discrimination is just. Most people reading the letter will be confused regarding what is actually meant.

          A model bill, which protects homosexuals from unjust discrimination, but also takes into account the bishops’ concerns would clarify matters greatly. It would show everyone that Catholics are willing to protect homosexuals from unjust discrimination. And it would show legislators precisely how to take religious concerns into account, so that opposition is minimized. I think such model bill would move the discussion forward, and perhaps lead to passage of a law which is acceptable to all but the most diehard partisans.

          • Bill S

            But then it says that there are situations when such discrimination is just.

            I know. If the discrimination is just, then it isn’t discrimination in a strictly legal sense. As long as the Catholic Church persists in its condemnation of gay sexual acts, Catholics are going to be on the wrong side of the law and of history.

            • hamiltonr

              Bill, you consistently confuse disagreement over issues such as gay marriage with discrimination. That goes back to definition. Do you believe that it is unjust discrimination to debate legislation? Do you believe that it is unjust discrimination to say that legislation needs to be considered in all its ramifications, including to basic human rights such as religious freedom? It is unjust discrimination to have a different opinion from that of leadership in various gay rights organizations? What definition of unjust discrimination are you referencing when you make these statements?

              • Bill S

                There is no unjust discrimination under this proposed law until it is passed and signed and put into effect and then someone violates it. Nothing anyone is doing to finalize it with language to protect religious freedom and none of our discussions in any way should be viewed as constituting any kind of unjust discrimination. I apologize if I gave you or anyone else that impression. But Catholics continue to think that they are going to have to violate this law if it goes into effect as proposed. As citizens and decent human beings, they should not be doing anything even now that will be prohibited. They are just being asked to treat gays as they would like others to treat them. It’s Christianity 101.

                • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

                  “There is no unjust discrimination under this proposed law until it is passed and signed and put into effect and then someone violates it. ”

                  What you said – and I had to read it over three times to be sure I had read it right – is: “There is no unjust discrimination under this proposed law until it is enforced.” That is, until it is a law. Now if I thought that you meant what you said, as you said it, then I could not agree more: the existence of such a “law” would be a monstrous and villainous act of discrimination. But somehow, I can’t imagine you meaning that.

                • John Pack Lambert

                  Considering how probdly “intimidation” has been interpreted, I can see courts ruling that wearing a cross creates an anti-Homosexual atmosphere and Catholics wearing a cross to work are in violation.
                  Also, I am sure some will try to force Catholic schools to retain practicing homosexuals on staff. That is already going on in Ohio, which evidently has no such state law, so I am confused.

                  • Bill S

                    All this trouble is easily avoided by not discriminating against gays (which I would think is a sin).

  • Dale

    I imagine the bishops would be happy to support a piece of legislation
    that addressed genuine discrimination against any group of people, and
    certainly something that addressed genuine discrimination against
    homosexuals.

    Rebecca, do you think if the USCCB (or an allied organization) drafted a model bill, that might help blunt the backlash against their objections? The bishops state, in their letter, that they oppose unjust discrimination against homosexuals, but they some of the provisions or language in the current bill are unacceptable If the bishops (or an allied organization) were to propose a model bill which prevented unjust job discrimination against homosexuals, wouldn’t that help? I am thinking it would move the discussion forward, instead of making it murkier.

    • hamiltonr

      I don’t think it’s appropriate for the bishops to draft legislation. However, if someone else drafted such a piece of legislation, it would be entirely appropriate for them to weigh in on how that legislation would affect the Church. I think you have a good idea. I haven’t read ENDA, but from what I gather reading about it, it needs exemptions for religious freedom and matter of conscience as well as a statement that it is not meant to affect, one way or the other, the status of marriage in the states. That would leave everyone on both sides of the gay marriage question free to lobby for changes in the law that the support. I’m not sure what else, but those would be good starting places. For instance, I do not support give homosexuals supra Constitutional rights, if that is truly what the bills does. I think they should have the same civil rights as everyone else. One question that people have not addressed is simply whether or not discrimination against homosexuals still rises to the level that statutory redress is needed. I believe that is certainly did at one time. In fact, I do believe that there was a time in which the basic civil protections of homosexuals against violent assault were lacking. I do not think this is true any longer. If anything, it appears that public concern for the protection of homosexuals from violent assault is much greater than public concern about violent assault against women. But that is another argument. The real question is what, if any need is there for statutory protections for homosexuals for them to exercise their rights as citizens. In a way, their very success at promoting their cause these past few years weighs against arguments for the necessity of this legislation.

      • John Pack Lambert

        If the bishops drafted a model bill, then we would have no end of cries of “attempts by religious organizations to impose their will on the public”. We still hear that about Proposition 8, just because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church were major sponsors, but the law was not drafted by a religious organization. I think to some extent most marriage amendments are based on a proposal by Lynn Wardle, who is a law professor at BYU. But that no more makes them the product of a church than if they were drafted by a law professor at Fordham.
        The fact of the matter is that the anti-8 people come close to wanting to exclude religious people from being able to contribute to political campaigns. At least that is the effect of what they advocate. Although they have no problem with all the money they got from Unitarians and other religious people opposed to proposition 8.

  • hamiltonr

    Note: Comments that begin with phrases like “You are the kind of person who …” and then go on to insult another commenter’s morals, heritage, intelligence or beliefs in personal terms are most likely going to bite the dust on this blog.

    If that’s what you want, you will find plenty of opportunities for that kind of behavior over on the atheist blogs.

    I don’t care if you talk about baseball, apple pie, or the topic in the post. But do not attack other people. That’s what I mean when I say “debate the issues, not the person.”

  • John Pack Lambert

    The biggest problem with ENDA is there is no evidence it is needed. Homosexuals are on average economically better off than non-homosexuals. One of the pro-homosexuals pushing ENDA asked Boehner to look around Ohio and see why ENDA is needed. So I looked around Metro-Detroit. I saw posh suburbs like Ferndale and Royal Oak chalk full of homosexuals, while young married couples with children struggle in places like the neighborhood of the school I teach at in Detroit. It is way better than some, but there are still burned out houses within 3 blocks of the school.
    If there is a reform that is really needed it is pushing companies to better accept parents as employees.
    Where are these companies discriminating against homosexuals. More often it is companies trying to compel participation in the truly disgusting spectacle that is the Homosexual Pride parade. It is public universities like Eastern Michigan University (of which I am an alumni) forcing out a promising African-American student from the counseling program because after following the recommendation of her advisor and turning down a potential client in her through the school job because he wanted advice on his homosexual relationship, and she would have just wanted to tell him to end it, they wanted to “reeducate” her Vietnam style into accepting homosexuality as good. She was planning to be a school counselor in a K-12 setting. Those don’t do relationship counseling. She got a judgement against the school, but they still won in having fewer African-American professionals in the public schools. In both Detroit and its suburbs the African-American student bodies far exceed the rate of professional staff that is African-American. It might not be bad for my pre-K students, but middle school students and above will see this as a continuation of persistent problems.
    At Eastern it seemed like most of my professors had the Homosexual Flag posted prominently in their office. I don’t remember that much done in the library for Black History Month, even though 30% or more of the entering student body was African-American, it fell after that in part because the school was perfectly happy to get upfront tuition payments and then let the students flounder. But in October the library just bombarded us with pro-homosexual rhetoric. the pro-homosexual office on campus was the most active thing going.
    There was definantly a willingness to mock religious believers in class and to consider their views of no value. Native Americans who embrace homosexuality as acceptable are evidently the “real” ones, the much larger numbers who are Catholics, Mormons, Evangelical and other conservative Christians, who reject such things as contrary to God’s law have no right to their racial and ethnic identity. At least that was the line put forward by my Native American History Professor at eastern. I wish I had thought of a good way to counter this argument, but I was just seething and if I had said anything I would have made things worse.

  • John Pack Lambert

    Jeff Jacoby over at Townhall argued that since the vast majority of businesses already have clear policies against sexual-orientation discrimination, and even those that don’t have formal policies have no clear examples of doing such, the argument that ENDA is needed is downright incorrect.
    This leads to the question, why if workplaces do not actually discriminate is ENDA needed? the answer, to further say that Homosexuality is good, and to open more law suits against Catholic schools for firing teachers who come at as transgender.


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