EDITORIAL: Fairness requires Boehner to let House vote on ENDA

FresnoNovember 6, 2013 

Late last month, leaders in Washington gathered to remember Tom Foley, the former speaker of the House who died at the age of 84.

House Speaker John Boehner said, "It was his sense of fairness, his port-in-a-storm-bearing that will always stand out for me. It's how he held this institution together at a very difficult time."

"Fairness" is a word that Boehner should remember when it comes to passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

This proposed law, which should be not be controversial, bans discrimination based on sexual preference and identity and encodes workplace protections into federal law for gays, lesbians and transgender people.

To their credit, several Republicans in the Senate have joined Democrats in supporting ENDA. The Senate signaled its likely approval Monday with a 61-30 vote, which clears the way for a final vote. Yet the measure appears doomed in the House.

"The speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small-business jobs," said spokesman Michael Steel, a comment that seems to suggest Boehner will not let ENDA come up for a vote.

Fairness demands the speaker let his chamber vote on this simple extension of civil rights.

In July, the U.S. Government Accountability Office examined the complaints filed in the 21 states and the District of Columbia that have laws banning workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Most of those states also ban discrimination based on gender identity. In the years examined, 2007 to 2012, the data "show relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity," according to the GAO.

If Boehner thinks that non-discrimination laws are a litigation nightmare, he should seek to end the ones that protect women and ethnic minorities. But he'll never do that, because it would further harm the GOP's electoral prospects.

Instead, he stands in the way of ensuring workplace protections for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Is that fair?

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