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Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - November 07, 2007)

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Mr. ANDREWS. I thank my chairman and friend for yielding.

Madam Chairman, we very often hear people say in this House that they oppose discrimination. Today there's a chance to do something more than just say that you oppose discrimination; you can vote against it.

I listened to the questions raised by my friend from California, the ranking member of the full committee, and I would like to address them.

My friend says that there are burdensome new mandates imposed by this bill. That is not the case. If an employer has 15 or fewer employees, they are not covered by it at all. And there's really nothing burdensome about the idea that you can't refuse to hire or fire or mistreat someone because of their sexual orientation. That's no more of a burden than having the same rules based on race or religion or nationality.

My friend says there are highly subjective measures, and he points to the use of the word ``perceived'' discrimination. He says that when we ban discrimination based on perception of sexual orientation, it creates too much confusion. The reality is that precisely the same legal concept has been part of our Federal law since 1989 under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Listen to this. I know the word ``perceived'' is not in the ADA, but the legal concept is the same. One Federal judge in New York heard a case, and that judge says that the case was based on ``harassment and discrimination based on her perceived disability.'' I'm not sure this judge is qualified, but most of the Senate does because it was Judge Michael Mukasey, who is now the President's nominee to be Attorney General of the United States. This doesn't create new confusion; it simply restates an existing principle.

On free exercise of religion, the gentleman from California is correct. There was some debate about the proper scope of the free exercise provisions in the underlying bill. Mr. Miller's amendment, which we will hear shortly, imports precisely the same standard that has existed for the exercise of religion for the last 42 years under title VII.

The gentleman raises questions about marriage and says this is a radical attempt or a first step in a radical attempt to redefine marriage. Mr. Miller's amendment will make it clear that precisely the opposite is true. Mr. Miller's amendment will take the language that was approved by the House, signed by President Clinton, in the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines for Federal law purposes marriage as one man and one woman and import it into this bill.

Finally, the gentleman says this is a sweeping departure from civil rights laws. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not a departure from civil rights laws. It's an inclusion of millions of Americans who should have been included for a very long time. It's a question of simple fairness. It's a question that says if you are a computer programmer or a bus driver or a carpenter, your job situation should be based on how well you drive the bus or how well you can program the computer, not on your sexual orientation.

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Mr. ANDREWS. Madam Chairman, the record should reflect some accuracy in the point two of our friends just made that the proposition that the display of a religious artifact such as a Bible in and of itself creates a hostile work environment. There is not a shred of that in this bill, nor is there a shred of case law anywhere in the 42-year history of title VII that supports that claim. The majority certainly is welcome to supplement the record if we are wrong. I just don't see it.

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Mr. ANDREWS. I thank the chairman for yielding.

Madam Chairman, I rise in support of this well-thought-out amendment from Chairman Miller and Mr. Stupak. I think it quite fairly addresses some of the concerns people have raised.

First, with respect to religion, on October 3, 2007, the president of Wheaton College wrote to our colleague, Mr. Walberg from Michigan. President Litfin worried about the scope of the religious exemption in the underlying bill, and here is what he said: ``I urge you to remove the problematic religious definition language currently in ENDA and ensure that the act categorically exempts religious organizations as in section 702(a) of title VII of the Civil Rights Act.''

Here is what the amendment in front of us says: ``This act shall not apply to a corporation, association, educational institution, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pursuant to section 702(a),'' precisely what was asked for.

Second, I have heard concerns that there is preferential treatment or special rights for persons protected under this bill. The gentleman and others should read page 8 of the underlying bill, subparagraph (f), which is captioned ``No Preferential Treatment or Quotas.'' Let me read from it: ``Nothing in this Act shall be construed or interpreted to require or to permit any covered entity to grant preferential treatment to any individual or any group because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation of such individual.''

It's helpful to read the bill.

Finally, we have heard suggestions that somehow the institution of marriage is undermined. It's very important to read the second part of Mr. Miller and Mr. Stupak's amendment, subsection (c) and I will read it: ``As used in this Act, the term `married' or `marry' refer to marriage as such term as defined in section 7 of title I,'' which is the Defense of Marriage Act which explicitly defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

These were concerns that were raised. They are met. I respect and appreciate the fact that the ranking member of the full committee will vote ``yes'' on this amendment. So will I, and so will an overwhelming majority so we can proceed to passage of this bill with a strong bipartisan majority.

I urge a ``yes'' vote on this amendment.

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