Tomorrow, the House is expected to vote on the Employment Non- Discrimination Act (ENDA). The bill, introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or fail to promote employees simply based on sexual orientation.
To obtain White House support for ENDA, lawmakers compromised by exempting “small businesses, religious organizations and the uniformed members of the armed forces” from the bill. Yesterday, an article on the right-wing site WorldNetDaily revealed that White House staffers had helped craft these exemptions:
“Americans For Truth has learned that a White House official has boasted to pro-family leaders attending a private administration briefing that White House staffers were involved in the negotiations to craft expanded religious exemption language for the new ENDA bill,” according to Peter LaBarbera’s Americans For Truth organization.
After the meeting, officials refused to say whether or not the President would veto the bill. But today the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy making clear that despite the exemption compromise, “senior advisors” will still recommend that President Bush veto the bill:
H.R. 3685 would extend existing employment-discrimination provisions of Federal law, including those in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to establish “a comprehensive Federal prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” The bill raises concerns on constitutional and policy grounds, and if H.R. 3685 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
While the vast majority — nearly 90 percent — of Fortune 500 companies prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, there are surprisingly no federal prohibitions against such discriminatory behavior. ENDA would ensure that for the first time ever, gay and lesbian employees are afforded this critical federal protection.
Urge your senators to support ENDA here.
UPDATE: Pam’s House Blend has more.
UPDATE II: The Center for American Progress’s Winnie Stachelberg explains why this bill is a necessary first step, even though it “is not as inclusive as policies in many major companies and a growing number of states.”
UPDATE III: Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, put out a statement in response to the White House’s statement:
Basing employment decisions on prejudice and not on merit is un-American and should have no place in our society. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is an historic civil rights bill and if the President opposes it he will be on the wrong side of history.