[EDITOR'S NOTE:] Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has given us the following guest post as her statement on the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Our thanks to the Congresswoman's office for sending this along. Representative Baldwin is the only openly lesbian member of Congress.
Today, the House took an historic vote on the Employment Non- Discrimination Act . . .a bill that expands the law of the land to prohibit job discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation. This is an historic moment in the on-going movement for equality in this country. As in all movements, achieving success is a process, and today’s legislative accomplishment marks a milestone, but certainly not the end, of our quest.
I offered an amendment to H.R. 3685 because I strongly believe that we must prohibit job discrimination against people because of their gender identity.
This is a complex issue. Few people are very familiar with it or understand how a person’s body might not match one’s internal sense of gender. But, there are Americans who confront this reality and therefore seek to live as the other gender in order to feel whole. This is not a new phenomenon... it is not a fad. And it certainly is not a reason to suffer discrimination in the workplace.
The importance of non-discrimination laws cannot be overstated. Substantively, they provide legal remedies and a chance to seek justice.
Symbolically, they say that, in America, we judge our fellow citizens by their integrity, character, and talents; not their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, age, or disability.
Some people have asked why I insisted on bringing an amendment to the floor, only to withdraw it without a vote. The reason is simple. Those left behind by this bill deserve to hear, on the floor of the House, that they are not forgotten and our job will not be finished until they, too, share fully in the American Dream.
Those who would practice employment discrimination, who permit bullying or ostracism on the job, who hire or fire based on stereotyped notions of what is masculine and what is feminine, rather than on a person’s skills and ability, need to hear, from the floor of the House, that such practices are not acceptable in our society.
Irrational hate or fear have no place in our society. If we truly believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if we truly want to protect the most vulnerable in our society, if we continue to profess that all men are created equal, then we must work toward achieving the American Dream for all…not just for some.
So, I join with my colleagues in celebrating House passage of a bill that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is important and necessary legislation. And I remain committed, as we all are, to passing legislation that bans workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity.