In 2007, Paul Ryan cast the lone pro-gay vote of his career, voting for a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would have made it illegal to fire an employee just for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. But he refused to support the bill if it included similar protections for transgender Americans.
The vice-presidential nominee was one of 35 Republicans in the House to vote for the bill (after voting to kill the measure moments before in a procedural vote), but did so only after transgender protections had been removed from the measure. According to a 2010 Roll Call article, Ryan pushed the bill’s sponsor — Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) — to exclude protections based on gender identity and expression:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) also said he would likely vote against the legislation with transgender protections, and he said he’s told Frank as much.
“It makes it something you can’t vote for,” Ryan said. “I think ENDA’s the right thing to do,” but transgender language “changes the equation.”
Ryan declined to detail his objections, saying he wanted to read the final package.
According to a Task Force survey, 90 percent of transgender Americans have experienced “harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it.” The same survey showed 47 percent had been ﬁred, not hired, denied a promotion, or experienced a similar adverse job outcome based on their gender identiy or expression. At present, 34 states offer no legal protection for transgender citizens who experience workplace discrimination.
By refusing to support an fully-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Ryan helped perpetuate the very real discrimination that transgender Americans face — because he thought that protecting them was something “you can’t vote for.”