Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council is not happy that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act advanced out of committee in the Senate yesterday with bipartisan support. In his daily email, he railed against the idea that it might become illegal to fire people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, but cited an example that compromises his own arguments:
If the bill passes, employers everywhere would face a very familiar dilemma: violate your conscience or pay the price. For those not concerned with religious freedom, there are the practical implications to consider like dress codes and lost profits. Just a few years ago, a completely secular clothing company, American Eagle, fired a man [sic] who dressed like a woman because his [sic] appearance was driving away business in its store. But according to the state’s anti-discrimination law, the company’s bottom line didn’t matter nearly as much as this man’s [sic] hurt feelings.
As part of a private settlement, American Eagle was forced to hire cross-dressers no matter how uncomfortable it makes customers or employees! Some New Yorkers were surprised. After all, shouldn’t companies be free to enforce a dress code? Not under this law. “The ENDA bill is going to mean a lot to me,” said transgender and ex-Navy SEAL “Kristen” [sic] Beck, “Just for the pure fact that I can show up for work in a dress…” If not, homosexual and transgender activists will be able to use ENDA to sue employers into submission on an agenda that could cost them millions of dollars in lost business and costly litigation.
As Perkins notes, American Eagle is not a religious company. Thus, any discrimination that was taking place against transgender people wasn’t an exercise of “religious liberty”; it was just transphobia. By acknowledging this, he admits that his motivations for discriminating against LGBT people are not substantiated by religious beliefs. His claim that a trans employee was “driving away business” is unfounded; in fact, when American Eagle settled, the company eagerly agreed that “transgender individuals should be treated equally,” promising to train employees how to be more respectful of their trans colleagues and customers.
Perkins thinks it should be legal to fire people for being transgender just because he assumes that everybody has the same disregard for gender identity diversity that he does. If such an argument had any merit, it would also suggest that a bar or liquor store should be able to fire Christian employees who might discourage customers from drinking alcohol. In fact, Perkins ends his rant by claiming that “if anyone needs workplace protections these days, it’s conservative Christians.” He seems to forget that Christians already enjoy explicit employment nondiscrimination protections under federal law — and until ENDA passes, LGBT people don’t.