Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

ENDA Passes House: A Partial Victory for Inclusive Justice

After 20 years of attempts, ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, has passed the House of Representatives.  ENDA, if it becomes law, would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual people in hiring, firing, promotion, or workplace treatment.  There are exemptions in the act for the military (which I oppose) and for religious organizations (which I support because of my commitment to the First Amendment).  Thus, conservative talking points to the contrary, ENDA would not force churches to hire gay pastors or faith-based organizations to retain and promote openly gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals. (If a faith-based organization, such as a hospital or children’s home or college, receives government funding, it may have to choose between said funding and it’s commitments to be anti-gay–just as the fundamentalist Bob Jones University had to decide to modify its whites only policies, and, later, its policies against interracial dating, in order to keep being eligible for PELL Grants, etc.)

As an advocate for inclusive justice, I should be thrilled, but the thrill is decidedly muted.  You see, to get this version of ENDA passed, not only did Congress need to go along with continued military discrimination (“Don’t ask, Don’t tell”), but it had to strip the ENDA bill of language protecting gender identity from workplace discrimination.  Transgendered persons can still be denied employment, fired, or otherwise discriminated against.  Transgendered persons are not gay or lesbian:  the issue is not sexual orientation.  Gay men still identify as male and lesbians still identify as female.  Transgendered persons, by contrast, feel trapped in the wrong bodies.  Many eventually undertake sex reassignment surgery so that their outward bodies match their underlying sense of who they are.  I finally began to understand the issues of the transgendered through meeting Rev. Elise Elrod, once a conservative, overweight, white, male, married, Southern Baptist pastor, who is now a thinner woman–and still married to her wife, though the two have separate bedrooms and are celibate.

Part of me wants to celebrate this as a partial victory–refusing to let the perfect become the enemy of the good.  Another part of me remembers the horrible lessons of history about the number of times that victory over oppression for one group was achieved by leaving another group behind–and the negatives that always resulted for everyone.  In the 19th C., early feminism was united in its efforts with the anti-racist efforts against slavery and racial discrimination:  until after the Civil War when votes for black men were achieved at the expense of women–some white feminists responded with racist comments and black women were forced to choose between racial and gender loyalties.  Women’s suffrage was delayed until 1920 and the division between white women and African-Americans was one factor in allowing the rise of Jim Crow laws of racial discrimination.  This terrible scenario was repeated in a minor key during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s and the Second Wave of feminism in the late ’60s and ’70s.  Will we see this again with a division between inclusive justice on matters of sexual orientation and lack of the same for gender identity?  When will we learn the truth of Martin Luther King’s oft-repeated slogan that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?”

The good news is that MANY Gay Rights organizations chose to stick with the transgendered and urged Congress to pass the more inclusive version of ENDA.  But some division was fomented in the move to strip gender identity protection from ENDA–with some gay rights spokespeople denying that there was a “GLBT community” and saying that gender identity wasn’t important.  That is sad, though I take heart that the “divide and conquer” tactics were less successful than with previous movements for inclusive justice.

Even this watered-down version of ENDA will have an uphill battle in the Senate and, if it passes, Pres. Bush has sworn to veto it (and there is nowhere near the votes needed to override a veto).  So, real victory will wait at least until 2009 and a new president and (hopefully) a more progressive Congress. I hope the time between will be used to solidify the gender identity and sexual orientation protections. Lack of gender identity protection in the workplace, after all, leaves far more people vulnerable than the tiny minority of transgendered people:  Employers are free to impose punitive and idiosyncratic standards of “proper behavior for one’s gender.” (I have had employers tell me that “real men don’t have hyphenated names” for instance.) The opportunities for abuse are ripe.  We do no one any favors by abandoning the transgendered.

This issue has reminded me of the need to finish up my long-neglected series on GLBT inclusion in the Church.  Hopefully, by this weekend, I will have finally posted on Romans 1.  I let this lapse for far too long. Apologies to all.


November 12, 2007 - Posted by | GLBT issues


  1. My honest question is, with this law passed, does that mean that a small business owner who is a Christian and tries to cultivate a family-oriented environment will be forced to hire homosexuals and transgendered individuals (or retain them) despite his views to the contrary? It seems to me that this issue goes far beyond hiring those who are one gender or another or who have differing sexual preferences, but rather to hiring those whose behavior you believe to be unethical and immoral. That, to me, is problematic mostly for the small business owner who seeks to be spiritually and morally responsible to His God and His family.

    Additionally, doesn’t this in some way (as happened in CA), discriminate against those colleges and individuals who desire to use gov’t backed student loans? I know I could not have attended Union University had it not been for a Stafford Loan (which, yes, I am still paying for). Would this keep students from attending an otherwise accredited and, at times academically superior, university? Of course, the free-market entrepreneur in me sees an opportunity for Christian-based student loan organizations, but wouldn’t it still put conservative Christians and Evangelical colleges at a clear disadvantage to secular and liberal ones?

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 13, 2007

  2. My honest question is, with this law passed, does that mean that a small business owner who is a Christian and tries to cultivate a family-oriented environment will be forced to hire homosexuals and transgendered individuals (or retain them) despite his views to the contrary?

    Shall we make it a law that you don’t have to hire ANY sinners if you’re opposed to sin? Shall we make it a law that lets business owners discriminate against conservatives, if the owner thinks conservatives are sinners?

    That, to me, is problematic mostly for the small business owner who seeks to be spiritually and morally responsible to His God and His family.

    So, if we allow business owners to not hire sinners, I wonder who they will hire…?

    Comment by Dan Trabue | November 13, 2007

  3. D.R. Randle: “My honest question is, with this law passed, does that mean that a small business owner who is a Christian and tries to cultivate a family-oriented environment will be forced to hire homosexuals and transgendered individuals (or retain them) despite his views to the contrary? ”

    If you base your hiring practices on something other than a person’s basic competence for the job at hand, you have a problem. You have no right to peer into someone’s private life and should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking you do have that right. Perhaps you need to open a Bible, perhaps something like Romans 14:10: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

    Comment by larry p | November 13, 2007

  4. Dan, your logic (or lack thereof) is based on a fallacy called a Reductio Ad Absurdum, which is why I quit trying to discuss with you. I think I will wait for Michael to respond. Surely his response will be more thoughful and logical (especially since he taught logic) than yours. At least I hope. In the meantime don’t resort to using an Argumentum Ad Nauseam, as you have in the past. I am wise enough now not play your games. Instead, you might want to spend your time more wisely by reading a book on logic, like say, “Crimes Against Logic” by Jamie Whyte or “Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking” by D.Q. McInerny.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 13, 2007

  5. D.R., there might be a small business exemption, as initially there was for civil rights laws, but I don’t know. I don’t think there is and I would not support such an exemption. I think that Dan’s point is legitimate. Reductio ad absurdum is not a logical error. It is used all the time as a legitimate argument in debate–though the real world is complicated enough that I am not always in favor of reductio arguments.

    In this case, however, one does have to wonder about slippery slopes: Do we allow small businesses to hire only members of one religion in order to be faithful to God? Do we allow Christian landlords to refuse to rent to gay or lesbian couples–or to check and see if the hetero single male they rented to has a woman overnight? What if the Christian small business owner considered divorced and remarried people to be adulterers and refused to hire them? In the past, Protestant small business owners who believed Catholics were idolators refused to hire them. Where do we draw the line?

    On the other hand, enforcement of all non-discrimination laws is hardest with small businesses because they can be family owned and operated. A stricter set of public standards can and does apply to larger corporations–especially those who have “gone public” with their stock.

    As for the Christian college question, I think it depends on how “closely related” it is to a church or denomination. ENDA has a religious exemption and some church-related schools might qualify–others might not, if they have an open board of trustees, etc. This question first surfaced in the ’70s with Bob Jones University which, at the time, refused to admit black students out of religious conviction. The courts ruled that if BJU accepted government money (including student loans, etc.), then it became susceptible to such pressures (which is a good reason for religious organizations to always refuse government money). It had the same ruling when BJU accepted African-American students, but then refused to allow interracial dating or marriage.

    When I first came to SBTS, I found that they so believed in church-state separation, that no students could apply for federal loans or grants to attend–although one could get undergrad loans put on “hold” until finished at seminary.

    In short, D.R., I don’t know the specific answer to your question–but I always vote for inclusion.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | November 14, 2007

  6. Larry,

    Behavior and lifestyle, despite your attempt to show otherwise do affect job performance, as does staff solidarity. And this is even more amplified in the environment of small businesses, especially when those businesses are in small towns like the one I live in. What I think is interesting is how many teachers are being fired currently for nude photos popping up on the internet (inadvertently), yet no one seems to suggest that it is not wrong for firing them. Yet, that is exactly the type of “private” behavior that causes problems in the workplace. And as for your prooftext of Romans 14, I suggest you go back and read the entire context (especially the fact that Paul is speaking of issues related to what one eats or drinks, not sexually immorality), as well as other words by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:12, where we are called to judge those within the Church (ironically for their sexual immorality). Additionally, judging one’s neighbor suggest that you must be willing to be judged by the same standard. So all judging is not wrong. And of course we are commanded to refrain from sin and to preach to others the same.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 14, 2007

  7. Michael,

    Sorry man, but you are wrong. A Reductio ad absurdum is a fallacy. A simple reductio argument is a logical, so long as it pertains to the subject at hand, which Dan clearly went off from when he lumped all sin in the category of homosexuality. He does this often, and yet ignores any heirarchy of sin or behavior. Yet, I doubt he would advocate life in prison for going 5 miles over the speed limit or only a fine for 1st degree murder.

    But another logical fallacy is reverting to slippery slopes, which you, yourself committed. Some of your questions though are legitimate (though I would say the divorce and remarriage one does not apply to this). First, I would say that no small business owner should be forced to hire anyone he or she believes does not fit in with his or her personal beliefs. After all, that is THEIR business. They have a right to run it how they desire and hire who they believe is best for the business. Gov’t should not intervene to tell a small business owner who they can or can’t hire. Being forced to hire someone they religiously disagree with seems to violate the fundamental rights we have in this country regarding our religious beliefs. No business owner should have to give up his or her rights to run their business in the way they believe is right and morally proper.

    In a capitalist society (not a socialist one, mind you), there is plenty of job availability to go around. And especially in our society, there are plenty of people who will hire those who are GLBT. We shouldn’t have to force business owners to do what they don’t desire doing, when there are plenty of other business owners who would be willing to hire them.

    Additionally, and as an aside, there is no way to completely enforce this. There are plenty of excuses that can be used in hiring or firing that would make this law almost impossible to enforce, but could bring about lawsuit after lawsuit, many of them without merit.

    You ask where do we draw the line? Well first, we quit drawing lines. Gov’t was not created to force people to conform to the same beliefs. For everyone to be truly free, we must allow individuals to live out their religious and personal beliefs. It seems to me that instead of making up more crimes, we should encourage business owners to hire GLBT individuals by offer incentives, rather than forcing them to adhere to what society decides. And maybe there should be a difference between public and private companies.

    As for the colleges, I think your “closely related” argument is too difficult to quantify. What about those colleges that are private, but not tied to a specific church – one that wants to remain non-denominational? There are just too many questions and possibilities that could crop up here that would cause more red tape and be less helpful to GBLT people. BTW, there are still no fed loans at SBTS. But I think anyone should be allowed to use a Stafford Loan at any accredited institution. Seems like another fundamental right thrown out the window.

    I do appreciate your honesty in saying that you don’t know the answer to my question, but I find it problematic that you are willing to legislate to solve the problem rather than look for better solutions that might maximize everyone’s freedoms. In the end, freedom of religion is paramount to our country. It is the ultimate reason why people sought to come to this county and thus we must FIRST make sure that freedom of religion is upheld. There will always be excesses and abuses (as in the civil rights era), but the free market and our free society will always provide much better solutions than more legislation and a cutting of freedom provides. Upholding the Constitution means you must uphold the rights of those with whom you most fervently disagree.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 14, 2007

  8. The real problem with the law is this: When an employer loses half his business, he must lay people off or go bankrupt. If he lays off a gay person, he is liable for a discrimination lawsuit where the employer is presumed to be guilty until proven otherwise on the flimsiest of evidence. If he lays off a parent of 4 children, however, there is no possible appeal. Now we have a husband going home and telling his wife, “honey, they cut me today because I wasn’t gay”. This is a great way to increase the division and bitterness in our society.

    Comment by Looney | November 14, 2007

  9. And could that not also be just as true if the employer laid off the gay parent of four children? If he were fired laid off because he wasn’t straight and he’d go home to tell his partner, “honey, they laid me off because I wasn’t straight”?

    Does that not also increase division and bitterness in our society? Or do minorities just need to suck it up and expect it because, well, they’re minorities and it’s okay to discriminate against them? (Which has been our answer for most our history…)

    Comment by Dan Trabue | November 15, 2007

  10. A gay parent of 4 children? Anyway, should we force people to actively discriminate against the majority so that we can avoid discrimination against a minority?

    Comment by Looney | November 15, 2007

  11. Why not a gay parent of four children? Adoption is an option, as they say, and God bless those adoptive parents gay and straight and married and single.

    And how would we be forcing people to discriminate against the majority? I don’t believe anyone has called for a law to encourage discrimination.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | November 15, 2007

  12. BTW, below is an article by Robert A. J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He holds a B.A. from Dartmouth, an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. So, he’s not an idiot, just in case he might be offhandedly dismissed.

    The article explains more problems with ENDA:

    Don’t ENDAnger Your Liberties in the Workplace

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 15, 2007

  13. “Why not a gay parent of four children?”

    My belief is that this bill is all about a society honoring and preferring family dysfunction and sexual disorientation over healthy families and relationships. So yes, we can have a gay parent of four children. And we can promote and encourage every kind of screwed up mental state in the name of equal rights and eliminating discrimination.

    Now I do feel sorry for alcoholics. Perhaps I should be doing more to help them. Should society honor alcoholics more than those who are sober and provide them special protections against discrimination in the workplace?

    Comment by Looney | November 15, 2007

  14. D.R., I know Robert Gagnon. On other issues, I respect his biblical scholarship, but I believe he is dead wrong about GLBT issues. The question is not whether or not he’s smart (he is), but whether or not his homophobia (and that article is full of fear language, so “homophobia” IS the right term) is influencing his views.

    I will continue to support ENDA–a full & robust ENDA that includes protection for gender identity as well as sexual orientation.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | November 15, 2007

  15. My belief is that this bill is all about a society honoring and preferring family dysfunction and sexual disorientation over healthy families and relationships.

    How many gay folk do you know, Looney?

    And are you a licensed psychologist that you are prepared to make legitimate evaluation of others’ mental states?

    The gay folk that I know are parts of healthy families free from dysfunction (with the exception, sometimes, of their parents and extended families that can’t deal with their sexual orientation – but that’s a reflection of THEIR mental state, not the mental state of my gay brothers and sisters).

    You are entitled to your “belief” but let’s not create legislation or allow discrimination simply because you “believe” it to be okay, seems like a fair approach to me.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | November 16, 2007

  16. Michael, for a smart guy with a Ph.D. that taught logic, you sure do commit a lot of logical fallacies. This time you engaged in an ad hominem attack. You know you can’t simply dismiss someone’s views based on their perceived “homophobia” (BTW, no one really knows what that means – most of the time it seems to describe anyone that doesn’t tow the line on “homosexual rights”). It’s fine that you disagree, but didn’t Dan appeal to fear when he used a Reductio Ad Absurdum (and then you supported him)? Does that make you a heterophobic? Or a Evangelicaphobic? Of course not! How silly it would be for me to suggest such!

    I posted the article for the same reason I post anything else over here – to give your readers a different perspective, an informed, intelligent Evangelical argument. But so often you simply dismiss my arguments without really dealing with actual issues. Then you assert that it is the Evangelicals who can’t deal with scholarship and debate? C’mon, man, if we are going to debate, let’s at least debate fair. And I am pretty sure we both know the rules.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 16, 2007

  17. I “appealed to fear”? What – when I asked questions?

    I thought I was trying to check for consistency in your argument. I didn’t realize I was appealing to fear. Sorry.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | November 16, 2007

  18. Dan, one of your biggest problems is that you are not at all able to crticially evaluate your own arguments. A Reductio argument is based on trying to find the “worst-case” scenario based on certain principles within your opponents’s argument (and a Reductio Ad Absurdum takes that to an absurd conclusion, which is what you did above). Therefore it natually plays to some degree of fear. As in, “what if this happened?” Or “that happened?” Appealing to fear doesn’t simply mean trying to scare one to death, but rather to bring up a much worse situation that could come about by applying your opponent’s principles. BTW, have you bought those books yet?

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 16, 2007

  19. DR, you’d have to have shown yourself to be a more reliable source for recommendations for me to consider too strongly your proposals. I’m already behind on reading as it is.

    I understand the concept behind your big mean ol’ latin words, DR, thanks. I was not appealing to fear, I was asking an honest question to see what the limitations of your argument were.

    IF I were to have said, “WHY, the next thing you know, DR will want to not allow hiring ANY sinners!!”, you may have had a point.

    My last comment (“if we allow business owners to not hire sinners, I wonder who they will hire…?”) was a joke, not a critique.

    It’s hard to take someone a reliable source of recommendations when that person insists on talking down to you. That you consider Mohler to be a legitimate authority also undermines your credibility with me.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | November 16, 2007

  20. Dan,

    Your recent comment is a great indication of what I refuse to deal with you anymore. First, you basically try to play the martyr (or underdog, or maybe simpleton) by you comment “big mean ol’ latin words”. Seriously man – its a poor attempt at humor and despite what you think, playing a simpleton isn’t cool or helpful to your actual arguments. Appealing to some persona as a simple country bumkin’ who just loves Jesus doesn’t make you any more right when it comes to the realm of ideas.

    Then, despite my attempt earlier to ask you not to commit an Argumentum Ad Nauseam, you do so in continuing to ignore how your questions are out of bounds and trying to find some way to make them not so illogical. Sorry, they are illogical, honest or not! Your rhetorical questions (and yes, you know plainly that those were rhetorical questions) were meant to point out problems in my argument, and you half admit that when you say, “I was asking an honest question to see what the limitations of your argument were.” They are just questions??!! Please! I don’t believe for a second (and you shouldn’t dishonestly try to present yourself as believing it either) that you only wanted answers and were not trying to point out possible flaws in my argument. Do you honestly think that I or anyone else who has interacted with you before thinks that you were simply being inquisitive in your questions here?? Come on Dan! Just look at how you worded it, “Shall we ….” Go try to convince someone who knows better. This is and has been your method of debate from when you first visited my blog. Remember your constant, “Should we not eat shrimp?” garbage? Yeah, same thing here.

    And finally, you use the old ridiculous standby – I am talking down to you. GROW UP! You are like a child who tries to play a sport with older kids and then complains when he loses. Seriously, if you are going to debate with someone have the guts to take it. If you are going to try to pick out flaws in others’ arguments, you cannot be mad when others show you how ridiculous some of yours are. If you can’t take having your arguments shown to be flawed, then quite debating!

    It really is insulting Dan when someone doesn’t take debate serious enough to quit playing childish games and complains when others don’t respect his arguments. Oh, and BTW, the Mohler comment is an ad hominem attack, once again – a logical fallacy. Simply because I believe Albert Mohler (who is often right on many issues) to be correct at times doesn’t mean I don’t know what books are good to read on logic. That very argument is why you need some education on logic. Until then you might consider suspending your trips around the internet taking on those who disagree with you and complaining about them later.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 16, 2007

  21. [rolls eyes]

    Thanks, bubba.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | November 16, 2007

  22. I shouldn’t be surprised – another ad hominem.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 16, 2007

  23. O.K., boys! This is getting to the name calling stage. Stop it or I will. I want this to be a “safe place” for many voices and perspectives–and it isn’t when we have such “no holds barred” exchanges. I’ve learned the hard way that when these kinds of things go on too long (whether or not I am involved), it turns off others and the number of people visiting here drops. Since I LIKE getting visitors, I have to draw limits–even if they are tighter than in other fora.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | November 16, 2007

  24. I apologize. I do realize that it is getting too personal and I have crossed the line and am way off topic.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | November 16, 2007

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