Congress should ban bias in the work place against gays, lesbiansAll will benefit from banning job discrimination against homosexual people.
©Copyright 1997 Guy Gannett Communications
If Congress fails to enact a federal law protecting homosexual men and women from discrimination on the job this year, who loses?
It certainly would be a setback for the gay men and lesbians who fear for their livelihoods at the hands of misguided employers. Losing one's job because of who you are, as opposed to how you do the job, is an injustice and sometimes a tragedy.
Yet homosexual people would not be the only losers if such a bill failed to pass the Senate and House to become law under President Clinton's signature. In both practical and moral terms, all Americans have a stake in seeing that discrimination on the job against gay men and lesbians is outlawed.
Last year a bill protecting the civil rights of homosexual men and women on the job failed by one vote in the U.S. Senate. The bill, which was not taken up by the House, came up along with another measure, this one successful, banning same-sex marriages. Both Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe and former Senator Bill Cohen voted to outlaw discrimination against gay men and lesbians on the job. The Maine Legislature built on their example this year when lawmakers enacted a bill that puts sexual orientation into Maine's anti-discrimination code.
This week, a group of Republicans and Democrats again submitted a federal bill banning work place discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The federal government should follow Maine's lead and pass this legislation because the economy works best when people are put to their highest use. That's an important principle because the world is a fiercely competitive marketplace today. It demands that America optimize its resources.
There is also a higher principle here: basic fairness. It diminishes all Americans when such discrimination occurs.
Passing a law banning work place bias against gay men and lesbians won't be easy or noncontroversial. As with other civil rights bills, it will require lawmakers to do the right thing regardless of the direction of the political wind.
Maine's congressional delegation should support outlawing work place discrimination based on sexual orientation. Such a law would benefit the nation as well as America's gay and lesbian citizens.
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