Rep Steve King (R-Iowa) is ready to whip the base into a frenzy over ENDA. Check out what he told a local radio host:
KING: Well Tony, I can imagine someone coming in and interviewing one day in man's clothes and come back and interview for a job in women's clothes and then setting up a lawsuit -- a sting operation that can harass, especially our religious organizations, but anybody, anybody who is operating in a responsible fashion.
You know, I just go back to this incident that took place when I was in the Iowa Senate. The gay activists would come and lobby about once a year, and senator Jerry Behn, he sat next to me for year. And he had four or five students and the University of Iowa lobbying him to provide special protected status for sexual orientation, gender identity, the Iowa ENDA Act, they were trying to pass. And he said, 'let me ask you a question.' 'Am I heterosexual or am I homosexual?' And they looked him up and down, actually they should have know, but they said, 'we don't know.' And he said, 'exactly, my point. If you don't project it, if you don't advertise it, how would anyone know to discriminate against you?' And that's at the basis of this.
So if people wear their sexuality on their sleeve and then they want to bring litigation against someone that they would point their finger at and say ' you discriminate.' It is an entrapment that is legalized by the ENDA Act, it appears to. And it's a violation of individual rights of employers to, at their own discretion, decide who they want to hire, who they want to fire...This is the homosexual lobby taking it out on the rest of society and they are demanding affirmation for their lifestyle, that's at the bottom of this.
What about the Jewish person who gets offered a job and then comes in the next day wearing a big cross? I bet they just did that so they could sue responsible employers.
First, there's the flaunting it argument. An employer can find out someone is gay in so many ways that staying in the closet at work is a job unto itself. No mentioning a partner or lover, no discussing what someone did over the weekend, no discussing previous employment if it was for an LGBT org, bar, bookstore, or *ahem* blog. Since most people don't just meet their coworkers once, look at them, and judge them to be gay or straight or bi, that little experiment is meaningless if you live in the real world.
Second, he seems to have assumed that the students were gay, instead of just students concerned with anti-gay discrimination. Maybe they introduced themselves as gay, or maybe the fact that they were working on this particular issue led King to make assumptions about them. Considering that he says that they should have known his friend's sexuality, it doesn't seem like he's entirely unfamiliar with the fact that people can figure out other people's sexual orientations without watching them have sex.
Third, who are these people who set up sting operations dressing one day in one gender's clothes and the next in the other? When has that ever happened?
Fourth, he seems to hold the idea of "not flaunting it" in high esteem. I remember a former head of LCR, in the film Outrage, describing how closeted Republicans in politics would take pride in their ability to keep it a secret, as a sign that it's no big deal and not something that consumes their lives.
Fifth, the exemption for religious employers is rather generous. That was supposed to short-circuit that argument against ENDA. But extend these people an olive branch and they'll use it to build their own cross. It's how they roll.
But what annoys me the most in Steve King's rant against ENDA is the "boo-hoo for employers" tone. He acknowledges the "religious" arguments against ENDA, makes fun of the gays and trans people, but that stuff is just a formality. His main concern is that it will be unfair to employers, saying that they (should) have complete discretion over who they hire and fire (they don't in the status quo in the US, and the US is much more permissive when it comes to hiring and firing than most wealthy nations).
With union membership down, deregulation of the workplace à la mode for decades now, health care still in the hands of employers, and litigation against employers getting harder and harder as courts are stacked against working Americans, they have the upper hand in countless ways.
The point of ENDA is to draw at least one little line, to say that employers can't use the fact that they control employees' access to an income and health care and shelter and food to determine their sexuality and gender presentation and identity. Even though we know it won't be that well-enforced, that there will be plenty of employers who'll discriminate against LGBT people without any repercussions, we're asking for the most egregious and obvious cases to be taken care of with the force of the law.
And Steve King says that that's asking too much.
Even with the Republican Party saying it's attaching itself to a new populist movement, that it's against established power and that working class Americans would benefit from being governed by good ol' boys like them, this is what it always comes down to. They just can't not shill for the ruling class.
At least it's expected from them. Democrats, on the other hand, would be wise to try to garner some pro-labor creds to show off in the midterms. People who work but don't own the place are a fairly large constituency. You'd think they'd be willing to show more guts than this.