Politics as Usual?

By David M. Smith, HRC's Vice President of Policy and Strategy

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. It's a law that's older than most
Washington interns. And since its enactment, it's ensured that federal
employees are protected from anti-gay discrimination.

Now President Bush's appointee is refusing to investigate claims of
sexual orientation-based bias because he thinks the law is unclear. On
June 30, members of the U.S. House introduced a bill that would clarify
things for Scott Bloch, who manages the Office of Special Counsel.

Under no public pressure from the White House to do otherwise, Bloch is
apparently single-handily rolling back protections for gay employees
that have existed for almost three decades.

I want to be clear about our position on this bill. We're not happy
about it. Congress should be focusing on enacting protections for all
gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, not renovating a law
that's in perfectly good shape already – that five administrations have
interpreted to protect lesbian and gay federal employees from job
discrimination.

But this is where we're at: politics as usual with the Bush White House.
It would not be necessary if President Bush would quit doing one thing
and saying another.

In April of 2004, President Bush said he supports protections for gay
federal employees. Today, he's either turning a blind eye as his own
appointee in charge of enforcing these protections is refusing to do so
or he's providing backroom approval of the rollback in protection for
federal workers.

Our message to President Bush is clear: enforce a law that your father's
administration enforced and President Reagan's administration enforced
before that. This bill serves to remind the President of the importance
of this non-discrimination legacy.

Because the federal workforce is the nation's largest employer, any
attempt to rollback protections there has a chilling affect on efforts
to achieve protections elsewhere. As we work day in and day out to
ensure protections from discrimination against gender identity and
expression as well as sexual orientation, both at the federal level and
in businesses across America, we must do everything we can to keep
protections we have intact. This bill would do this.

But, sadly, there's nothing new to this bill. It merely works to ensure
that there's no lost ground when it comes to protections for the federal
workforce. More must be done.

The Human Rights Campaign remains fully and unequivocally committed to
new law that would protect all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
employees from workplace discrimination.

With a decade of support for sexual orientation-based legislation in
Congress, we're working to bolster support for gender identity
protections.

As you read this, we are preparing a publication for legislators
detailing the challenges faced by transgender Americans, in the
workplace, in health care and in communities across the nation. We're
continuing a campaign on Capitol Hill that sheds light on stories of
gender identity-based discrimination on the job. And we're mounting an
in-district lobbying campaign so that members of Congress can't use
their constituents as an excuse.

Yes, we must go further than this bill. But we can't do it alone. The
dire need for broader, comprehensive workplace legislation must be a
priority for every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender American.
Indeed, when we stand together, we stand strongest.

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