On Saturday, the Washington Times argued that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — which would prohibit public and private employers from using an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity “as the basis for employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotion or compensation” — would subject “kids to weirdos” that undermine “standards of decency.” Titled ‘Discrimination is necessary,’ the editorial contends that protecting children from the “unnatural transformation” of “a she-male” is “common sense”:
First-graders should not be forced into the classrooms of teachers undergoing sex changes. Religious broadcasters and faith-based summer camps should not be forced to hire cross-dressers. Women should not be forced to share bathrooms with people with male body parts who say they want to be females. Yet those are some of the likely results if Congress passes H.R. 3017, the so-called Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which is due for a vote this week by the House Education and Labor Committee.
ENDA purports to “prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” Clever politically correct wording aside, this is a direct attack on common sense. On some matters, it is good to be discriminating. It is right to discriminate between honesty and dishonesty, between politeness and impoliteness, between right and wrong. And it assuredly is right to be discriminating in choosing who teaches our children. ENDA would make it impossible for a non-church-based charter school, for instance, to remove from the classroom a “she-male” who insists on exposing her pupils to her unnatural transformation….Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition wrote in the April 20 edition of Roll Call about several examples of cross-dressing or sex-changing teachers who claimed protections under state disability laws (in the 12 states that do indeed protect “gender identity”) and were able to remain in the classroom despite parents’ protests.
Despite the fact that 12 states already protect transgendered teachers and have seen “no epidemic of children coming out of those public school environments profoundly harmed,” the Times relies on popular anxiety about transgendered people to suggest that that their mere presence would hurt children without providing any evidence of actual harm.
In reality, the issue of transgendered teachers is quite rare. “There have been a half-dozen or so teacher gender transitions in the last decade,” and in at least some of these cases, parents were allowed “to remove their child from that school and place them in another school.” ENDA only prohibits institutions from making employment decisions based on sexual orientation or gender identity; it does not prevent schools from re-assigning teachers to different classrooms.
Moreover, both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) support the measure. “ENDA embodies the simple principle that all workers should be evaluated solely on the product of their work not judged on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” AFT notes. The NEA adds, “Diversity among educators is not a threat, but rather a great asset to the profession and the students they serve.”
Supports of ENDA are still anxious about the transgender provisions, however. As Roll Call reports today, Republicans who support the measure “are suggesting that their support for the bill may turn to opposition if the final bill extends protection to transgender individuals.” “’That’s an issue,’ said Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), who is listed as a co-sponsor of the bill that includes transgender people. ‘I just haven’t decided.’ Biggert said she had met with transgender people and had initially intended to vote for the bill, but became concerned when she began to think how the expansion of the law could affect schools.” Similarly, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said that “he would likely vote against the legislation with transgender protections.” “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.”
In 2007 the House had to drop protections for transgendered individuals to secure enough votes for passage and it’s unclear that Democrats will be able to withstand a Republican motion to recommit that excludes protections for transgender people.