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.