LGBT Employment Bill Struggles to Gain Support in House

Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank delayed the introduction of his Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to rally additional support.

Harry Gural, spokesman for Frank, told the Washington Blade, "[The bill] was announced but not formally introduced – the bill has not been 'dropped.'" He continued, "We are still collecting cosponsors."

Frank, who is openly gay, was scheduled to introduce the bill supported by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community on Wednesday. Frank's office had announced Tuesday that it would re-introduce ENDA.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a statement, "ENDA reflects the core U.S. values of fairness and ensur[es] everyone is allowed to participate on a level playing field in the workplace."

Similar to the 2007 bill, ENDA would add "sexual orientation" to a list of federally protected classes under a 1964 act that prohibits job discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Churches would likely be exempted from the measure, but Christian organizations and pro-family groups that hold that homosexuality is a sin fear that they would likely be forced to hire people who have different values than them, including at Christian day cares.

"ENDA would take away Christians' and others' right to stand up for biblical morality," Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth, said at the time of the 2007 bill.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, has expressed concern about the bill.

In 2009, Kline said ENDA "creates an entirely new protected class that is vaguely defined and often subjective." In particular, Kline had objected to the bill's banning discrimination based on "perceived sexual orientation," according to Keen News Service.

"Attempting to legislate individual perceptions is truly uncharted territory," said Kline, "and it does not take a legal scholar to recognize that such a vaguely defined protections will lead to an explosion in litigation and inconsistent judicial decisions."

Rep. Frank, during a Wednesday press conference, acknowledged the measure is unlikely to be approved by the Republican-controlled U.S. House. However, he believes that reintroducing the bill provides an opportunity to educate lawmakers about the subject.