ENDA ends employers' freedoms

DALLAS (BP)--According to Fortune magazine, corporate America is in love with homosexual activism. In an article last year, Fortune writer Marc Gunther described the ways in which companies have structured programs designed to attract skilled homosexual and lesbian workers.

For instance, the defense giant Raytheon, in addition to providing domestic partnership benefits, supports a variety of homosexual activist groups and belongs to homosexual chambers of commerce in communities where its plants are located. According to Fortune, companies like Raytheon find it in their best interests "to hang out a big welcome sign" to convince prospective employees who are open homosexuals and lesbians that they will not be subject to discrimination in the workplace. Raytheon's "chief diversity officer," Heyward Bell, said, "We can't afford to turn our back upon anyone in the talent pool."

Raytheon is by no means alone in offering enticements to prospective homosexual employees. Fortune reports that IBM is the No. 1 supporter of "gay rights" groups in the United States. In fact, the company also extends benefits to transgender employees, having persuaded one of the world's leading sex reassignment surgeons to participate in its health insurance program.

American Airlines helped one of its pilots change from Robert to Bobbi. Chevron has established procedures to guide workers through the sex-change process, including the optimal timing for switching restrooms. Other companies, Fortune reported, provide homosexual and lesbian employees with what are essentially the benefits of marriage: bereavement leave when a same-sex partner dies; adoption assistance or paid leave for the birth of children; and relocation assistance for the partners of employees who are transferred.

AT&T, Wells Fargo, Motorola, Intel, American Express, Microsoft, General Electric, Kodak, and Ernst & Young are just a few of the other major companies that provide extremely gay-friendly workplaces. Some of these companies host or support "gay pride" events. Many provide internal forums for homosexual employees and finance homosexual networking opportunities outside the company. And nearly all of them mandate workplace diversity training to ensure that straight employees toe the line.

This situation is due in no small part to the workplace organizing efforts of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual advocacy group. A 2006 HRC report shows that for the first time more than half of Fortune 500 companies (263) offered health-care and other benefits for the domestic partners of homosexual employees. That's up from 28 companies just 10 years ago, Fortune reported. HRC President Joe Solmonese expressed his enthusiasm with a caveat: "Corporate America is far ahead of America generally when it comes to the question of equality for GLBT people."

Congress, though, is trying to catch up. In fact, Democratic Rep. Barney Frank has taken the lead in an effort to pass the carefully named and often-debated Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 2015), commonly referred to as ENDA. The argument is that discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, national origin and disability is already prohibited. Why not "sexual orientation"? Rep. Frank, an open homosexual, first introduced a version of this bill in 1994. But both the House and Senate, reticent to create a protected class that is not based upon immutable characteristics, but upon a behavior or lifestyle choice, wisely have not seen fit to enact this legislation.

By mandating a higher level of workplace protections for homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals, the passage of ENDA would endanger the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion of employers and eventually co-workers. If the new Congress passes this bill, the likely result will be a requirement that businesses maintain an atmosphere where heterosexual employees are forced to "value" homosexual behavior or lose their jobs. A better name for the legislation would then be Employment Discrimination Act because it would result in discrimination against bosses or co-workers who oppose homosexual behavior on religious or moral grounds.

ENDA would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote an employee based on "sexual orientation" or "gender identity." The "gender identity" part is new and makes the bill even more troublesome and confusing to enforce than previous versions. It refers to "the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth."

You could find that the male you hired a year ago might be in transition to become a female when the first performance review comes around. Perhaps this is not the image you want to project among your sales force or to your customers or the confusion you want to foist on the children who frequent your day care center or medical facility.

There's a religious exemption in the bill, but it's unclear how far this would extend into the realm of parachurch groups or businesses owned by those whose faith convictions do not endorse homosexual behavior.

Statistics show sexual orientation discrimination is not a widespread problem in America. Constitutional attorney and National Review blogger Roger Clegg wrote that, even if there are cases of discrimination that would be remedied by the passage of ENDA, "weighed against them must be the inevitable specious suits, the enforcement expenses, the dubious regulations -- and the important costs of enacting yet another federal law of dubious constitutionality that violates free-market, freedom of association, and federalism principles."

ENDA is not a means to foster equality, but a tool that would be used to bludgeon businesses into maintaining a work environment that affirms open homosexuality. The proponents of ENDA claim the bill's provisions are similar to practices already seen in 87 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Fine. In America, individual corporations are free to frame their policies in whatever ways they see fit. Enacting ENDA would steal that freedom from non-compliant companies. It's a bad idea.


Penna Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the syndicated radio program "Life on the Line" (information available at www.lifeontheline.com). She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a co-host of "Jerry Johnson Live," a production of Criswell Communications. She formerly was a co-host of Marlin Maddoux's "Point of View" syndicated radio program.

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