Chris Critiques: John Boehner on ENDA

ENDA

Critique by: Chris Talbot-Heindl; Illustration by: Chris Talbot-Heindl and Griffin Rostan

I’m having a deep sense of déjà vu as today’s critique involves our good old friend, John Boehner.

On Monday, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), passed with bipartisan support, in the US Senate. This, one would think, would be a common sense bill, and given that it ain’t 1994 anymore, a shoe-in.

Unfortunately, the next step is the cowboy, wild, wild west-style House Republicans, and of course, Boehner.

For those of you unfamiliar with ENDA, it is a piece of legislation that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, non-religious employers with at least 15 employees.

Every Congress has introduced this common sense, humane piece of legislation since 1994 and never passed (although previous to 2007, it was only for sexual orientation and not gender identity).

So, why, is this so important?

How is it not?

Not having this piece of legislation ever make it through the legislative process shows that our government does not believe that people who aren’t straight or CIS-gendered are people with rights in the workplace.

That’s what it says to me.

When I was sixteen, I started working in a pharmacy. Let’s call my place of employment Mall-Wart. I was good at counting, good at cash registering, good at facing pills and supplements on the shelves, and good at calling for a pharmacist to double-check the narcotics and to explain the usage and side-effects before handing out the drugs. In other words, there was nothing wrong with my work performance. In fact, I had a good rapport with our regular customers. What did become an issue was my appearance. I was a Tomboy; I had a shaved head (just like my heroes and crushes, Joan Jett and Sinead O’Connor). One day, the store manager of this particular Mall-Wart told me I had to start dressing differently. He said that my “dyke-ness” was scaring away the customers. Needless to say, I couldn’t grow my hair or change my entire wardrobe quick enough and found myself without a job.

I have a friend who was transitioning from female to male. He went by male pronouns, he had a male name, and he wore men’s clothing; and was going full-time in his identity. However, in order to keep his job, he was forced to use his female name and wear female clothing. With all the discrimination, internal conflicts, and identity issues overcome, imagine having to fit back in that square hole as a round peg; all to keep your livelihood.

So, why is this legislation a problem?

The short answer is that I have no idea. As President Obama puts it, “Americans ought to be judged by one thing only in their workplaces: their ability to get their jobs done…Does it make a difference if the fire-fighter who rescues you is gay, or the accountant who does your taxes or the mechanic who fixes your car?”

But, enter the House Republicans, and John Boehner. Nothing in the recent history of either entity has made much sense or paid attention to the needs or rights of others.

House Speaker Boehner announced on Monday morning that he would oppose the law because it would put a financial burden on businesses and may cause lawsuits. His spokesman, Michael Steel, said, “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

How in the world he came to that conclusion is beyond me.

Because the way I see it is: any piece of litigation that challenges discrimination in the workforce is not frivolous; any small business that makes a practice of discriminating against GLBTIQ people should have financial troubles; anything Congress can do to protect the marginalized in society from the bigots who would hurt them is a step in the right direction.

And, Mr. Boehner, in case you didn’t bother to read the legislation, all your hillbilly, cowboy bee-bop, religious zealots are already exempt. Pass the damned law.