Rep. Allen West (R-FL), no stranger to controversy, declared on Thursday that gay people are never fired because of their sexual orientation in the United States.
“That don’t happen out here in the United States of America,” West told ThinkProgress during an interview on Capitol Hill.
When we pressed the Florida congressman for clarification, he dismissed the importance of protecting LGBT people from discrimination. “I don’t see that as being a big issue with small businesses,” West said.
KEYES: What about something like a law that say that it’s illegal to hire or fire people because they’re gay?
WEST: That don’t happen out here in the United States of America.
KEYES: You don’t think people get fired because they’re gay?
WEST: Well, I don’t see that as being a big issue with small businesses. I sit on the Small Business Committee. You know what they’re concerned about? They’re concerned about onerous tax policy, regulatory policy, and lack of access to capital because Dodd-Frank is absolutely decimating small community banks.
Though West may not like to acknowledge it, workplace discrimination against LGBT people is very real. In 29 states, it is perfectly legal to fire you for being gay. (In 34 states you can be fired for being transgender.) This is not a mere prospect. Between eight and 17 percent of gay and transgender workers have been fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; that rate more than doubles for gay and transgender people who have experienced workplace discrimination.
This is not the first time he has made offensive statements regarding the LGBT community. He called talk of equality and fairness “divisive” and “contrary” to American principles, opposed repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell because he reasoned that gay soldiers “can change behavior,” and called LGBT opposition to a speech of his “intolerable.”