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Republicans Continue Denying Social Progress

By German Lopez · November 6th, 2013 · Commentary
With the support of only seven out of 45 Republican senators, the U.S. Senate on Nov. 4 moved forward with a bill that would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

If that sounds completely uncontroversial, it’s because it is — at least outside of political chambers. The 2013 Ohio Values Survey found 68 percent of Ohio voters support job protections for gays and lesbians and only 25 percent opposed such laws, with a margin of error of 3.9 percent.

Meanwhile, a majority in all other states now supports a ban on LGBT workplace discrimination. In a country that is rarely unanimous on hot-button political issues, that’s as clean as it gets.

Not clean enough for the U.S. House of Representatives, apparently. When asked about the bill, U.S. Speaker John Boehner said it would do nothing but create frivolous lawsuits and force businesses to cut jobs as a result. That effectively dooms the bill’s chances of getting through the House and making it to the president’s desk to sign into law.

Boehner’s line probably sounds familiar at this point. It’s the common refrain Ohio Republicans have used in the past few years to oppose similar legislation that would ban workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals all around the state.

Nevermind that frivolous lawsuits haven’t popped up in inordinate numbers in places that passed workplace protections for LGBT individuals, including Cincinnati. Nevermind that cities, states and countries that pass such laws are more inviting to members of the LGBT community who want to start a business, which could actually create jobs.

Nevermind all of that because that’s not Republicans’ real concern. Boehner and his colleagues probably don’t believe such protections will hurt the economy or lead to frivolous lawsuits.

And many of them probably aren’t personally bigots, despite pandering to an often homophobic and sometimes racist base.

Instead, the opposition is strictly political. Although a majority of the country backs workplace protections for gays, lesbians and transgendered people, the minority that doesn’t is a big part of the Republican base. That minority is who Boehner and other Republicans have to secure in primary elections now that congressional districts are redrawn in a way that neatly divides liberals and conservatives and therefore forces politicians to pander to the extremes of the American political system.

That’s also why 61 senators agreed to move forward with the bill. They don’t have to worry about congressional districts; they only worry about state borders. That gives them the leeway to vote much more moderately on these kinds of issues.

But this is one of the many issues in which politics shouldn’t play a role. For all the talk about a need for leadership in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, this is really one of the biggest “duh” moments in modern American politics. How can anyone, in this day and age, say that it should be possible to fire someone just because he or she is gay, lesbian or transgendered, especially when it’s already illegal to fire someone because of race or gender?

It wouldn’t even be a sign of leadership for Republicans to back the bill at this point. It would be following the will of the American people as the country continually progresses in a more open-minded direction on social issues. The move toward social liberalism is one of the most obvious arcs in human history; resisting once the majority is established is as senseless now as it was when old-time conservatives tried to justify religious oppression, slavery, segregation and a male-dominated workforce.

But if Republicans at the federal level insist on blocking workplace protections for LGBT individuals, then Ohio Republicans should pick up the cause. Right now, there are two bills in the Ohio House and Senate with such protections, both with Republican and Democratic support.

It’s time. Republicans need to get those bills through and allow the American people — or at least Ohioans — to move past another ugly chapter of U.S. history. The people demand it.

Other News and Stuff

Hamilton County commissioners Nov. 6 are expected to pass the first budget in six years that doesn’t require major cuts or layoffs. That’s a big step forward for a county government that is one-third smaller than it was a decade ago.

• At this point, it appears inevitable that the $2.5 billion Brent Spence Bridge project will be financed by tolls. Northern Kentucky officials long opposed using tolls to pay for rebuilding the functionally obsolete bridge, but safety concerns and a lack of federal funding are now taking priority.

CONTACT GERMAN LOPEZ: glopez@citybeat.com or @germanrlopez



11.06.2013 at 09:49 Reply

Is politics just an excuse for moral preening for liberals?  Workplace discrimination against gays is a big national issue?  Aren't gays one of the richest sub-groups there is? ........Have I been out of the loop or something and there has been a sudden rash of gay firings?  Nobody is firing gays for being gay. ....................................... Just because one of the least economically powerful group in the USA, rednecks, don't like gays because gays, and city folk in general,don't like them is no excuse for this liberal moral preening disguised as politics.  The rich are laughing while the party that used to be about fighting for the economic interests of the little guy, Dems, has transformed itself into being mostly about lifestyle advocacy for well-off sophisticates.


11.06.2013 at 10:04 Reply

To put it more succinctly: imagine a scenario where the two antagonists in this long-running feud, city slicker homosexual and country redneck, have identical job skills but in the job interview the gay speaks in a stereotypically gay manner and the redneck in stereotypically redneckese.  

Who do you honestly think gets the job?   


11.12.2013 at 01:27 Reply

After my brother graduated from med school, internship and residency, he lost his first two jobs for being gay.  While it is less common now, it still happens, and there is, so far, no federal recourse in the law. 

In Cincinnati, we have sexual orientation protections in the 1992 Human Rights Ordinance passed by council. Few lawsuits have been brought, however, because employers now know better. 

When ENDA passed the US Senate last week, it was reported in the media that many people thought such protections were already on the books.  Sadly, not the case.

All it takes is Speaker John Boehner from West Chester to be brave, defy the tea party, and bring the bill to the House floor.  Give it a chance, Mr. Speaker!