Preventing employers from firing workers simply because they are gay would “increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs,” according to a spokesperson for Speaker John Boehner. But never fear, such a law would also do absolutely nothing because “existing law” already prohibits employers from firing LGBT workers, according to an aide to Speaker Boehner.
Confused? The Speaker of the House sure appears to be. Clearly, it cannot both be the case that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which bans anti-gay discrimination in the workplace, is both a fount of costly litigation and an irrelevancy that will do nothing at all.
Unfortunately, Boehner’s office’s claim that it’s already illegal to fire gay people is a common misconception — a recent poll found that 69 percent of Americans incorrectly believe that a law like ENDA is already in place. In reality, there is no law protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual workers from being fired in 29 states, and transgender workers are unprotected in 33 states.
In fairness, there is a slight degree of nuance to this point. In Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, the Supreme Court held that federal law does protect against male-on-male sexual harassment directed at a worker who was (falsely) believed to be gay. But the Boehner aide’s sweeping suggestion that it is already illegal to fire gay workers is false.