They Were Born That Way: Is This John Boehner’s ENDA?

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Congratulations to the Aloha State for passing same-sex marriage legislation!

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With Hawaii’s November 12 passing and signing of same-sex marriage legislation, Hawaii became the 15th state and District of Columbia to do so. There is a momentum building throughout the country to allow same-sex marriage. On August 1, Minnesota and Rhode Island approved it. On October 21, so did New Jersey, after a judge overturned the state ban. Governor Chris Christie dropped his appeal to the state supreme court of this ruling. On November 20, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign the November 5 legislation into law.

It’s been a tough year for Speaker of the House John Boehner. Because of his national prominence, we forget that he represents the 8th District in Ohio. He’s 63 years old and has been serving in the House of Representatives since 1991. He served  as House Majority Leader from 2006 to 2007. He then served as Minority Leader from 2007 to 2011.

The United States has changed greatly in those 22 years, too fast for the Babbittish former plastics salesman. The word “Babbitt” entered the English language as a “person and especially a business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standards.”

When we in the media talk about “the angry white male”, we are usually referring to the aging Southerners, who want to secede from the United States or believe that “Obama is coming to take away our guns”. We don’t think of the Rust Belt states, like Ohio, as being part of the South. In most respects, Ohio is more southern than northern, more conservative than liberal and more white than multi-cultural. The last time a Democrat represented Boehner’s Ohio 8th district was from 1933 to 1937.

Congressional Dedication Of The Bust Of Winston Churchill

Boehner’s district is 89.2% white, the U.S. average is 65.9%. There are 2% Hispanic, vs. 15.1% and 5.4% Black vs. 12.1% . It is very slightly more affluent and has less poverty than the national averages. Boehner’s votes on social issues reflects the views of his voters.

The Great Recession has hit the 8th Ohio District hard. The unemployment rate is 10.2% The national average is 7.3%. In 2010, the number of people receiving food stamps (SNAP) increased from 152,000+ from 105,000 in 2008.

Indeed in 2009, childhood poverty rose over six points in the Boehner district to reach 19.1 percent, or 29,173 kids. Overall, 14 percent of Boehner’s constituents live below the federal poverty line of $22,400 per year for a family of four. Shared Harvest’s work has more than doubled—it distributed approximately 7 million pounds of food in 2007, and 16 million pounds in 2010.

The world is changing around John Boehner, changes his small town world mentality doesn’t understand nor want. There is an African-American man in the White House. His chief rival in the House is a woman from liberal California. He has the House Republican crazy women, like Michele Bachmann and Marsha Blackburn, who don’t listen or know their role. There is a  lesbian former House member who has gone on to become Wisconsin’s Senator, Tammy Baldwin. It is all too much, too soon and too fast for him.

While his reaction in not wanting to hold a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act legislation that the Senate passed is understandable, but still wrong and deplorable. Boehner’s official comments on why he won’t bring the legislation to the floor for a vote are worse. “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.” Later, Boehner added a further explanation, “We have always believed this is covered by existing law,” the aide said, adding that it is “not a new issue or a new position — it’s a longstanding position, and, frankly, not ‘news’ at all. This has been his position, on the record, for years, stated publicly many times.”

His understanding of the states’ and federal ENDA legal protections is also wrong, which as a co-leader of the world’s greatest legislative body, he is supposed to know. According  to the American Civil Liberties Union, which Bohner probably despises:

“Congress needs to act to ensure that LGBT individuals have the same workplace protections that apply based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability. The reality remains that it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in 29 states. Those who are transgender can be fired or denied employment solely based on their gender identity in 33 states. Such numbers demonstrate the need for the federal government to expand employment non-discrimination protections to LGBT workers.

This view is shared by the overwhelming majority of the American public, including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and independents. A 2011 poll found that 73 percent of likely voters support protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment. In addition, many large and small businesses – including many federal contractors – have already taken these steps on their own, and report that they have very few or no costs and actually reap longer-term benefits to their bottom lines (e.g. recruiting the best and brightest, minimizing turnover costs, increasing productivity, appeal to new markets, etc.).”

Speaker Boehner won 99.2% of the vote in 2012, so he does not have to worry about not being reelected in 2014. His views do reflect those of his district. But in accepting the role as Speaker of the House, his duty is also to serve the citizens of the whole country. It is likely he has never met a transgender person or seen one, unless he has watched Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”, the hit women’s prison series in which a transgender woman is one of the stars.

John Boehner may not know what it is like to be transgender, but he does know what it’s like to be orange. Even if he votes against the ENDA legislation, which is what his constituents would likely want, he should allow it to be brought for a vote by the House. Mr. Speaker, the LGBT community are your citizens, too. It’s time for you to lead your district into the modern world, not shrink from what your voters don’t want to accept or understand. If you can’t or won’t, then it should be the end of your dismal Speakership.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender citizens shouldn’t be discriminated against or fired for who they are. They are citizens, the “with liberty and justice for all” applies to them, too. They were born that way.

“Don’t hide yourself in regret,
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way”

Lady Gaga, “Born This Way”, Lady Gaga and Jeppe Laursen, BMI, January 25, 2011

 

 

 

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