Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ENDA Currently in Limbo - Gays Remain Unprotected in Virginia

This Virginian Pilot article ( looks at the current status of ENDA which has passed the U. S. House of Representatives but which is still awaiting action in the U. S. Senate. The Chimperator has indicated that he will veto any such bill that comes to him, but I hope the Congress will put him on the spot. Most Americans support employment protections for gays (even in Martinsville, Virginia based on callers on a TV talk show I was involved in back in March of this year) , so Congress needs to show Bush to be the nut case that he truly is. That, of course would require that the Democrats grow some backbone - something they have yet to do. The article also looks at the situation of gays in Virginia who currently lack any protections. As for the comments of Victoria Cobb of The Family Foundation in the article, from my experience over the years, in my opinion, Ms. Cobb is one of the most untruthful individuals (translate LIAR) involved in Virginia politics and is utterly incapable of grasping the concept that her religious views should not control the civil laws. Shannon Bowman, my fellow HRBOR board member, quoted in the article is pictured at left. Here are some story highlights:
Federal laws ban office discrimination based on factors such as age, race, color, religion and gender. But “there’s no federal law protecting against discrimination against sexual orientation, and there’s no Virginia state law,” said John Bredehoft , an attorney with Kaufman & Canoles in Norfolk.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine last year renewed an executive order banning discrimination against sexual orientation in state offices. But “unless you’re a state employee, you’re not in a protected category under Virginia law,” said Norfolk lawyer Michael B. Hamar . “You’re open game.”

The House approved the bill, 235-184 . Local legislators split along party lines: Republicans Randy Forbes and Thelma Drake opposed it; Democrat Bobby Scott supported it. In a related issue, House and Senate negotiators last week agreed to drop a controversial provision attached to a defense bill that would have expanded hate crime laws to include gay people. Nevertheless, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, expects to begin Senate action by January on the workplace bill, said Melissa Wagoner, an aide.

Sen. Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, will be a co-sponsor because he believes in “basic notions of fairness for all Virginians, including the belief that discrimination has no place in our society,” said spokeswoman Jessica Smith . Republican Sen. John Warner is reviewing the bill, said Bron­wyn Lance Chester, a spokeswoman . Don’t count on any anti-gay employment legislation getting into the law books anytime soon, said Jesse Richman, assistant professor of political science at Old Dominion University. “I think it will pass eventually,” Richman said, “but maybe not for some time.”

Hampton Roads Business OutReach – a coalition of businesses owned by or supportive of gay people – still backs the bill. “We were unhappy that it excluded the transgendered population,” said Shannon Bowman , a vice president, “but we feel it’s at least a step in the right direction. If we don’t stand behind it the way it’s written now, it might be completely thrown out and everyone would lose.”

Victoria Cobb , president of the Family Foundation in Richmond complains that the case hasn’t been made that gay people are “systematically disadvantaged as a class.” Foreman counters, pointing to a recent UCLA report that found “consistent evidence” of workplace bias. It cited surveys in the past decade showing that 15 percent to 43 percent of gay men and lesbians faced problems.

Norfolk attorney Hamar represents a former employee of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville who says he was fired after his boss interrogated him about his sexuality . He filed a complaint with the state, saying the firing violated Kaine’s order. Museum officials have denied the allegation. The complaint is pending.

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