You’re Fired – The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

enda protest
Latest posts by Ian Proegler (see all)

ENDA, the well-known acronym for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, will probably pass.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, even the Senate passed the bill. That’s great, really it is. The stones for change for LGBT people in the United States are turning and the future is looking bright. In the 29 states that can fire you for being gay, that’s 33 states if you’re trans*, ENDA will disable that from happening. ENDA will bar employers with fifteen or more employees from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for firing them. Like stated, this is wonderful news for many gay people living in those states that allow this practice to take fruition. It shows how much the United States’ views on gay rights have dramatically changed. In fact, ENDA even has the support of ten Republicans.

The passing of ENDA shows that people have run out of inept and unthought-out excuses for why it shouldn’t pass, which means people have run out of excuses for why LGBT people should be fired for being gay. However, now that it’s passed the Senate, gay rights groups have moved their focus to the President and executive order. Chad Griffin, the president of the gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, says, “We call on President Obama to send a clear message in support of workplace fairness by signing this executive order.” But the bill, in all seriousness, will probably never reach Obama’s desk. It might never even get a vote in the GOP-led House because of Speaker John Boehner’s opposition.

Gay rights groups believe that because of Boehner’s opposition, the president should act on his own volition and extend protections in the workplace to gays and trans* people. Republicans have, albeit probably knowingly so, cast themselves outside the mainstream on gay rights. The pressure is drawing on the GOP, specifically Boehner, to pass ENDA in the House.

If President Obama were to sign an executive order, it would contain the same safety measures for the workplace as the Senate bill would, however it would only apply to people employed by federal contractors. That constitutes about twenty-percent of the nation’s workforce. An executive order would roughly mean that the President was forced to sign the order, signifying that views in the GOP-led House do not have to budge. This would be a clear message that the GOP will not budge in the future, and that bills in the future, as well as LGBT causes have to learn to grit our teeth and accept the bare minimum that executive orders provide.

While taking all of this into account, even if the bill did pass in the House: if an employer wanted to fire you for being gay, they could fire you under a different guise. No one is a pristine, perfect employee. If the angst of having an LGBT person in the office was that unbearable to an employer, it would be fairly easy to find another reason in which to disguise why they’re being fired. They wouldn’t even have to mention or let on to the fact that the employee they want fired is gay, they wouldn’t have to allude to it at all. However, the gay person would still be fired for being gay.

ENDA is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, if not to serve as a gauge for the ever-changing (seemingly in favour) public view on LGBT rights across the nation. But ENDA can’t ever provide indefinite protection for LGBT people because an employer would just as easily find another reason to let an employee go. However, it does show us that the views in the Senate, and even the ten Republicans in the House that support the legislation, can change. Change is possible, indefinitely.