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New legislation
would protect gay federal employees

New legislation
would protect gay federal employees

Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday by a bipartisan group of lawmakers seeks to shore up long-standing federal workplace protections for gay federal employees. The measure comes in response to a Bush appointee who has stubbornly refused to enforce those protections, activists and lawmakers say, first put in place by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.

"Federal workers should not be fired, disciplined, or faced with retaliation on the basis of their sexual orientation," said Tammy Baldwin, Democratic representative from Wisconsin, who cosponsored the legislation, introduced by California Democrat Henry Waxman and Connecticut Republican Chris Shays; the bill is also cosponsored by Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer, Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, Florida Republican Mark Foley, New York Democrat Eliot Engel, Illinois Democrat Danny Davis, and Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe. "Despite long-standing federal policy that protects gay and lesbian federal workers, which has been reaffirmed by President Bush, [Office of Special Counsel] director Scott Bloch has refused to follow that directive. This legislation makes it crystal clear that federal workers are protected."

Bloch, head of the federal agency responsible for investigating and settling claims of workplace discrimination, ordered the removal of any references to sexual orientation discrimination from the agency's Web site and printed materials last year. In response the White House released the following statement: "Long-standing federal policy prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation.... President Bush expects federal agencies to enforce this policy and to ensure that all federal employees are protected from unfair discrimination at work."

But Bloch recently indicated at a Senate hearing that he has no intention of investigating or acting on certain claims of sexual orientation discrimination from federal employees. The new legislation would clarify the protections for gay and lesbian employees by explicitly making discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation a prohibited personnel practice under the Civil Service Reform Act.

"This legislation sends a clear message: Federal employees shouldn't be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation," said Patrick Guerriero, president of the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans. "It shouldn't take congressional action for Scott Bloch to actually do his job. He should be ashamed of himself."

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