EDITORIAL: No matter what you believe, discrimination is always wrong
Our View: No matter what you believe in, discrimination in the workplace should never be OK. All workers should have equal protections.
Last week, U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., remarked on rights homosexuals shouldn’t hold in the workplace after an impromptu interview on Capitol Hill. Not only did Lankford assert that being gay is a choice, but he said LGBT employees should not be protected from workplace discrimination because their behavior is something they can change. Lankford was not only out of line and discriminatory himself, but his claims were inaccurate and misleading, and one could argue that his ignorance was “behavior-related.”
No matter a person’s beliefs, discrimination is still wrong in every way. One’s creed does not license one to discriminate.
Representatives from ThinkProgress, a blog under the Center for American Progress Action Fund, asked Lankford if he would support a law that says an employer can’t fire someone for their sexual preference, much like similar laws that protect races and genders. Lankford’s response discerned between the difference between race and sexual preference. Lankford said race is inherent, or obvious, and sexual preference is behavior-related.
When confronted about his comments, Lankford said that his comments were taken out of context. He clarified that he wasn’t saying employers should legally be allowed to fire someone for being gay, but since he believes being gay is a choice, LGBT employees should not be protected from workplace discrimination. Since discrimination comes in many forms, including the denial of an assignment, position or job, Lankford’s distinction is a non-sequitur.
Aside from claiming that “race and sexual orientation are two different things,” he also said that people “don’t walk up to someone on the street and look at them and say, ‘Gay or straight?’"
Lankford makes the inference that one could easily identity a passerby’s race if you had passed them on the street. Many people do not fit into specific and limiting color profiles. Americans don’t fit descriptions of Crayola crayon proportions — we’re even more specific than that. This is OK — and it should be celebrated — but it makes Lankford’s accusations inaccurate.
What’s more, Lankford’s claims that homosexuality is a choice is contradicted by many highly-respected institutions, such as the American Medical Association, The American Association of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association.
Considering the larger picture, though, discrimination in any way, shape or form is absolutely inappropriate in the workplace. One’s beliefs shouldn’t be considered. If this were true, by Lankford’s same logic, he could be at risk for termination from Oklahoma's 5th congressional district because he is a Republican. After all, one’s political party is one’s choice.
The need for legislation that protects the GLBT community is imminent. According to a number of studies facilitated by Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, 15 to 43 percent of GLBT employees have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Seven to 41 percent of GLBT employees were verbally or physically abused or have had their workplace vandalized. What’s more, 12 to 30 percent of straight workers witnessed discrimination in the workforce based solely on sexual orientation.
Tom Guild, Democratic nominee for Congress in the 5th congressional district, has openly disagreed with Lankford, saying, “Everyone is entitled to equal protection and due process.” Guild has openly supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make the practice of firing employees because of their sexual orientation illegal.
We — like Guild — support EDNA because it is a law that supports equal treatment of all individuals. Let’s hold ourselves responsible to vote for lawmakers who champion the rights of individuals within our country.