Earlier this week, a handful of conservative Republican lawmakers formed the Tenth Amendment Task Force to “uphold the principle that the will of the people is best served at the state and local levels, and that the federal government should not interfere in matters that are fully within the purview of the states.” While the group is most concerned about preserving Arizona’s immigration law and repealing the federal mandates in the health care law, its founders claim that it “can encompass many things.” “The task force is not issue-specific. … It’s about conserving the Constitution,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (GA) and co-founder of the task force.
Embracing the group’s broad mandate, conservative activists are now calling on the “task force” to oppose the Employer Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill now in front of the House Education and Labor Committee which prohibits public and private employers from using an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity “as the basis for employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotion or compensation.” In a new press release touting the task force, the Traditional Values Coalition cites ENDA as “one example of a violation of state sovereignty is the benign-sounding Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which will overturn the laws of 38 states by forcing them to make ‘gender identity’ a protected status“:
“If passed, all businesses with more than 15 employees and state and local governments, including schools, will lose all authority to determine whether they want to hire or continue to employ someone who undergoes a sex change operation, for instance. [...]
“Ultimately states, empowered by the 10th Amendment to make laws regarding hiring practices within their borders, will be stripped of their authority to decide for themselves whether they think the owner of Christian radio station, for example, should be forced to hire someone whose actions and lifestyle run contrary to his or her beliefs. We are grateful to the Tenth Amendment Task Force for working to restore the proper constitutional balance of power between the federal government and the states.”
Whether or not the task force will incorporate ENDA into its platform — the group did not mention the legislation at yesterday’s inauguary press conference — Republicans will undoubtedly attempt to defeat the legislation on 10th amendment grounds. Constitutionally, however, there is absolutely no difference between ENDA and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As one legal expert told me, “just substitute the word ‘black” for the word ‘gay’ or ‘transgendered.’ Since the ban on race discrimination is unquestionably constitutional, so would be a ban on discrimination against the GLBT community.”
“There is no plausible theory of the Constitution that would strike down ENDA that wouldn’t also strike down the ban on race discrimination,” he said, suggesting that when Republicans go down this road, we should very well ask them if they believe it’s constitutional for businesses to refuse employment to black people.