Last week President Obama announced that he supports the idea of gay marriage, setting off an uproar of opinions both in favor and opposed to his announcement. One of the most opposed came from Oklahoma Republican Representative, James Lankford, who told the website, ThinkProgress, in an interview that “he was against laws designed to protect employees from workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation, because of his belief that being gay is a choice.”
Lankford says that race discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace are two different things.
An excerpt from the interview from ThinkProgress:
STRASSER: Would you support a law that says you can’t fire someone for their sexual orientation –
KEYES: Similar to protections for people on race or gender?
LANKFORD: Well, you’re now dealing with behavior and I’m trying to figure out exactly what you’re trying to mean by that. Because you’re dealing with — race and sexual preferences are two different things. One is a behavior-related and preference-related and one is something inherently — skin color, something obvious, that kind of stuff. You don’t walk up to someone on the street and look at them and say, “Gay or straight?”
KEYES: But you think that even if you can’t see they’re that way, you don’t think someone is born gay necessarily?
LANKFORD: Do I personally? No. I don’t. I think it’s a choice issue. Are tendencies and such? Yes. But I think it’s a choice issue.
Lankford is not the only young Republican to express opposition to Obama’s remarks. Representative Allen West of Florida said protection from sexual orientation discrimination is unnecessary because that type of discrimination simply does not happen in the U.S.
“That don’t happen out here in the United States of America,” he told ThinkProgress.”
Currently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not protect employees from sexual orientation discrimination. It only protects from discrimination based on age, disability, sex, national origin, race, religion, pregnancy, and sexual harassment.
However, other federal agencies, many states, and municipalities do protect employees from sexual orientation discrimination.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management issued Executive Order 13087 in 1998 that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Additionally, last week a bipartisan group of senators asked for renewed hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would expand employee anti-discrimination language to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The issue will be taken up later this month in the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.