LE MARS, Iowa — To Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the problem is not that it’s legal for employers to fire an employee for being gay. It’s that the employee made his sexual orientation publicly known in the first place.
ThinkProgress spoke with the Iowa congressman Monday about whether it should be legal for businesses to discriminate in their hiring and firing decisions. King said that “they shouldn’t be able to do that [to] a private business” because “they need to have freedom to operate.”
We asked if this meant that he opposed the idea of forbidding businesses from firing an employee because of her sexual orientation. “How do you know someone’s sexual orientation?” he countered, before proposing an idea similar to the recently repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the military. “I would think that unless someone makes their sexuality public, it’s not anybody’s business, so neither is it our business to tell an employer who to hire.”
KEYES: Would that encompass, for instance, the government being able to tell businesses who they can hire and fire?
KING: Yeah, they shouldn’t be able to do that [to] a private business.
KEYES: Even if those were to be regulations say on a matter of sexual orientation or gender or other stuff like that?
KING: How do you know someone’s sexual orientation? I don’t know how you discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation. That’s their business.
KEYES: I guess if it became public knowledge that an employee were lesbian or gay.
KING: You have private sector businesses here and they need to have freedom to operate. In the first place, I would think that unless someone makes their sexuality public, it’s not anybody’s business, so neither is it our business to tell an employer who to hire. He won’t know who to discriminate against in the first place.
Nobody should have to hide who they are for fear of losing their job. Gay and lesbian people, like everyone, ought to be able to be themselves and be free from employment discrimination. Unfortunately, in King’s world, it’s an either-or proposition.