Thursday, November 8, 2007

House Passes Non-discrimination Act of 1997

The House of Representatives yesterday passed a Bill aimed at eliminating discrimination against homosexual employees in the workplace. The Employment Non-discrimination Act, according to the New York Times, is being hailed by some as, “the most important civil rights legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990”; opponents of the measure claim that such legislation will only lead to unnecessary lawsuits.

In response to the passing of the Bill in the House, Senator Edward M. Kennedy has stated that he would push to quickly introduce a similar Bill in the Senate. Depending on how the legislation is phrased, some Senate Republicans feel such a Bill could pass sometime early next year.

Although the House has already passed the Bill, and there is optimism that the Senate will pass similar legislation, there remains a very real possibility that any Bill focusing on discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace will not get past the President. President Bush has already indicated that he would veto an earlier version of the Bill; although there have been amendments to the version passed by the House, many expect that these differences will not change the opinion of the President. As the Bill passed in the House 235 to 184, it is uncertain whether the necessary votes (an additional 45 votes in favor of the Bill would be required) can be swayed in order to override the expected veto.

Whether such a Bill ever becomes law remains to be seen, but it seems as if steps are being taken to assist a larger number of persons in being protected from workplace discrimination. The only troubling issue, to me and apparently a number of the House members who voted against the Bill, is the Bill’s failure to include protection against discrimination based on gender identity. According to the article, language protecting transgender and transsexual individuals from discrimination was removed as a means of bargaining between Democrats and Republicans to help ensure passage of the legislation. Such a bargaining arrangement is understandable in many situations, as often times it is better to get some of what is desired even if you cannot achieve all goals at one time. Still, whether or not the current measures passed by the House and being considered by the Senate are enacted into law, it is hopeful that there will remain a push to ensure that all employees, regardless of beliefs, background, sex, and even gender identity, are protected from discrimination in the workplace.

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