Protection against discrimination is needed
House Speaker John Boehner has declared that ending discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation would be too expensive for some companies.
Mr. Boehner is right in a roundabout way, in that few things are cheaper than bias. His opposition to the Employment Non-Discrmination Act is inexcusable.
ENDA would ban employers from firing, refusing to hire or discriminating against employees or applicants based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the Williams Institute at UCLA's law school (williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu), which studies gay rights and public policy, there are about 8.2 million gay and lesbian employees nationwide.
In October, the Pew Research Center released a study, conducted by researchers at Ohio State and Boston universities, which found that about 21 percent of gay workers had experienced some form of workplace discrimination.
ENDA includes roughly the same penalties and same standards of proof relative to other forms of workplace discrimination. It would not apply to companies with fewer than 15 workers, and religious organizations that are exempt from federal law barring discrimination based on religion also would be exempt from ENDA.
This week 61 senators voted to preclude a filibuster and to bring ENDA to the floor for debate and vote. It is likely to pass.
A Government Accountability Office study this year found that in 21 states with laws similar to ENDA, business activity has not diminished because of it. (Of 33 states that ban discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity; 21 ban it in all employment. Pennsylvania is not among either.)
ENDA is needed for universal protection against workplace discrimination, so that workers will be judged performance rather than on who they are.