By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com November 14 2013 3:10 PM ET
During his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner reiterated his opposition to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the Senate last week with the support of 10 Republicans in addition to every Democrat in the chamber.
Asked by the Washington Blade's Chris Johnson whether the speaker would allow the House to vote on the bill, even though he's made his personal opposition clear, Boehner reiterated an inaccurate statement he's been recycling for weeks, claiming that it's already illegal to fire workers for being gay.
"I am opposed to discrimination of any kind, in the workplace and anyplace else,” Boehner said. “But I think this legislation that I’ve dealt with as chairman of The Education & The Workforce Committee long before I was back in the leadership is unnecessary and would provide a basis for frivolous lawsuits. People are already protected in the workplace. I’m opposed to continuing this. Listen, I understand people have differing opinions on this issue, and I respect those opinions. But as someone who’s worked in this employment law area for all my years in the State House and all my years here, I see no basis or no need for this legislation.”
In reality, it's perfectly legal for an employer to fire someone for no other reason than their sexual orientation in 29 states, and in 33 states, employers can — and do — fire workers simply for being transgender.
Although a majority of Fortune 500 businesses have already adopted inclusive nondiscrimination policies, noting that they attract and retain high-quality workers, the federal legislation has been languishing in Congress since 1996. The Senate's bipartisan vote to move the bill to the House last week was the first time the chamber had given trans-inclusive nondiscrimination an up-or-down vote.
Hoping to build on last week's historic Senate vote, advocates on and off the Hill are pressuring Boehner and House republicans to allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote. Out members of Congress Sen. Tammy Baldwin and (D-Wis.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) have both said they believe the legislation has enough bipartisan support to pass the Republican-controlled House if the chamber were allowed to vote on it. Nearly 50,000 people have signed a petition through Credo Action demanding the speaker bring the bill up for a vote.
Watch Boehner's remarks below.