Congressman Robert Pittenger, a North Carolina Republican, is standing by his previous comments that businesses should have the right to refuse to employ LGBT workers, framing the issue as one of fundamental freedoms.
ThinkProgress legal reporter Alice Ollstein asked Pittenger his stance on the current Employment Non-Discrimination Act at a town hall meeting in Ballantyne, N.C., earlier this month. Pittenger said that while he agrees everyone should be respected, business people should have the right to fire and hire employees.
"You need to respect the autonomy of somebody running their business," Pittenger told Ollstein. "It's like smoking bans. Do you ban smoking or do people have the right to private property? I think people have the right to private property. In public spaces, absolutely, we can have smoking bans. But we don't micromanage people's lives and businesses. If you have a business, do you want the government to come in and tell you you need to hire somebody? Why should government be there to impose in the freedoms we enjoy?"
North Carolina is one of 29 states that does not offer employment discrimination protection for LGBT employees, but Pittenger says he thinks all people are protected, according to ThinkProgress.
Pittenger's communication director, Jamie Bowers, told MSNBC that the blogger misconstrued the representative's words.
"After the event, a blogger asked for an interview then asked about [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act]," Bowers told MSNBC. "His opposition to ENDA was 'translated' into 'firing gays' by that blogger."
Pittenger defended his remarks to The Charlotte Observer editorial board asking, "Should we now make the market less free? Government intervention is not the best solution for matters of the heart."
The Observer editorial board countered that government intervention is often needed when fighting for the rights of citizens and residents.
"Racial discrimination, we would argue, is also a matter of the heart, yet government intervention was essential to securing basic civil rights for African-Americans and other minorities," the op-ed reads. "In the free market, many companies don't discriminate based on race, ethnicity, gender or other measures, but America has still seen fit to pass laws prohibiting it."