By virtue of his concerns about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is standing in the way of "equal rights" for gay and lesbian Americans in the workplace, the Daily Beast groused today. "Boehner Blocks Equal Rights," complained a teaser headline on DailyBeast.com.
"The path towards the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or ENDA becoming law took one step forward on Monday morning but two steps backward when Speaker of the House John Boehner came out against the measure," Beast staffer Ben Jacobs complained in his Nov. 4 story, "ENDA Hits Obstacle In House." Jacobs noted that:
In a statement, Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said "The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”
But there is much more to conservative opposition than that.
While ENDA has exemptions for religious institutions, it would most certainly apply to for-profit religious employers, like say a Catholic pharmacy, a Muslim butcher shop, or a kosher deli. Additionally, ENDA does not merely protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination but enshrines "gender identity" as a category under protection, meaning that an employer you hire named Eric can't be fired for deciding he'd rather dress as a woman and be called "Erica." Where frivolous lawsuits may come in, of course, is where an employer fires Eric/Erica because he's just awful at his job, but his gender identity issues make it easier for him to sue you for wrongful termination.
Additionally, ENDA would be extended as a mandate on state and local governments, despite legitimate constitutional concerns that the federal government would be trodding on state sovereignty in the process. It's perfectly fine if states want to expand their anti-discrimination laws, but it's quite suspect, at best, when the Congress seeks to mandate new restrictions on each and every state capital.
Also completely overlooked by Jacobs in his reporting both on Boehner's statement on and Sen. Dean Heller's (R-Nevada) endorsement of ENDA is any consideration of how a legislative fight over ENDA is exactly the sort of wedge issue Democrats would love to talk about to distract national political attention from ObamaCare while attempting to energize the party's socially-liberal base.