By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com April 25 2013 1:05 PM ET
On the same day the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was re-introduced in Congress, a gay elementary school principal in Oregon was saying goodbye to the students he's worked with for a decade, after the district declined to renew his contract once the educator revealed he is gay.
Tom Klansnic has been the principal of North Gresham Elementary School in Gresham, Ore., for ten years, but when his contract came up for renewal last month, the district declined to rehire him. Today will be Klansnic's last day on the job, though he will remain on paid leave for the rest of the school year, reports Oregon's KATU.
Klansnic contends that the school's decision not to rehire him is related to the principal's divorce from his wife three years ago, after which Klansnic publicly came out as gay. Last month, Klansnic said he and his attorney are preparing to file a lawsuit alleging discrimination and retaliation by the school district.
The Gresham-Barlowe School District clarified its decision not to renew Klasnic's contract in a statement to KATU on Wednesday, absolving itself of any wrongdoing; "The Gresham-Barlow School District has been working with Principal Klansnic to resolve our differences. The district has reached a tentative agreement with Principal Klansnic," reads the statement. "Both the district and Principal Klansnic believe this tentative agreement is an important step toward keeping the District and North Gresham Elementary School focused on meeting the needs of our students….The agreement currently being finalized will show that the dispute was resolved without an admission or finding of liability or wrongdoing on the part of the school district."
Although Oregon has LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination statutes, Klansnic's situation perfectly illustrates the need for antidiscrimination protections at the federal level. That's precisely what a bipartisan group of congresspeople hope to accomplish by reintroducing ENDA in both the House and Senate today.
Introduced in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Harkin (D-IA), openly gay Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Republican Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Susan Collins of Maine, ENDA would prohibit most employers across the country from discriminating against LGBT workers.
The legislation has been introduced in almost every Congress since 1994, and in 2007 was amended to include employment protections based on actual or perceived gender identity or presentation.
Openly gay Colorado Democrat Rep. Jared Polis joined Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to sponsor the legislation in the House, though more than 100 cosponsors also signed onto the bill, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
"It is long past time for federal law to provide basic workplace protections for LGBT people, and we are gratified that this important legislation has been re-introduced with strong bipartisan support," said NCLR executive director Kate Kendell in a statement today. "In the months ahead, we look forward to working closely with leaders in Congress and state groups across the country to build support for the bill.”