The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 is a law that’s older than most Washington interns. And since its enactment it’s ensured that federal employees are protected from antigay discrimination.
Now a President Bush appointee is refusing to investigate claims of sexual orientation-based bias because he thinks the law is unclear. On June 30 members of the House of Representatives 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-handedly rolling back protections that have existed for almost three decades for gay employees.
I want to be clear about the Human Rights Campaign’s 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 we’re finding 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 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 behind the scenes he approves of the rolling back of these protections.
Our message to President Bush is: Enforce a law that your father’s administration enforced and President Reagan’s administration enforced before that. The House bill serves to remind the president of how important this nondiscrimination legacy is. Because the federal workforce is the nation’s largest, any attempt to roll back its protections has a chilling effect 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 intact protections we have. The House 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 well.
As you read this, we are preparing a publication for legislators that details 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 lobbying campaigns within districts so that members of Congress can’t use their constituents as an excuse to do nothing.
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.