North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger made headlines recently for suggesting that firing people from their jobs solely because they are gay is one of the “freedoms we enjoy” as Americans.
Pittenger’s startlingly offensive remarks came as supporters of a federal employment non-discrimination act that would protect gay workers on the job are trying to force a vote on the proposal in the U.S. House.
Pittenger first made the comments to a national reporter after a town hall event and the Charlotte Observer reports that he stood by them in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, saying that hiring and firing decisions should be left to the free market and “government intervention is not the best solution to matters of the heart.”
Matters of the heart? Discrimination apparently should be left to the emotions and biases of the employer in Pittenger’s view of the world. The Observer also reports that Pittenger did not directly respond when asked if employers should be allowed to fire someone for being African-American.
That may be a matter of the heart too for the congressman. Guess we should repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act while we’re at it.
Pittenger is not alone of course. Republican leaders in Raleigh like House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger seem to agree with him.
Senator Josh Stein introduced legislation this session in the General Assembly to prohibit employment discrimination against LGBT workers. Four House members introduced a companion bill in the House.
Neither proposal even received a hearing in the House or Senate, much less a vote. That means gay and lesbian workers in North Carolina, who most likely will soon be able to get married thanks to the federal courts, might want to think twice about putting a picture of their spouse on their desk at work.
It could be a fireable offense, depending on the “heart” of their boss.
It simply shouldn’t be this way in a civilized society and it is not in the 21 states that prohibit employment discrimination against LGBT workers. And President Obama recently issued an executive order banning employment discrimination in the federal government and at companies that receive government contracts. Good for him.
But in North Carolina, there are no such protections, thanks to Tillis and Berger and legislators like Rep. Paul Stam, who just a few months ago passed out a document on the House floor listing pedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality as “sexual orientations” during a debate about banning charter schools from discriminating against gay students.
Lawmakers ultimately passed a charter school bill that did not include the anti-discrimination protections. And it was just a few years ago during the debate over the marriage discrimination amendment that Stam and many of his colleagues stood at rallies beside homophobic zealots who said gay people are an abomination and are going to hell. What’s in their hearts?
Governor Pat McCrory supported the marriage discrimination amendment but has been noticeably silent on the issue of employment discrimination. Somebody should ask him where he stands.
The Observer cited a Pew Research Center survey last year finding that more than one in five LGBT respondents said they were treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay or promotions.
This is not a matter of the heart, Rep. Pittenger. It is a matter of people in North Carolina currently being denied their fundamental civil rights because of who they are and who they love.
That brings to mind a lot of things, but freedom is not one of them.