Tuesday, July 29, 2008

GOP Rep. John Kline questions need for transgender protections

Rep. John Kline (R-MN-02), the ranking minority member of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee, had a chance to address the issue of legislating transgender employment protections during the 26 Jun 2008 hearing. His head didn't spin 360°, he didn't projectile vomit pea soup, and he didn't sound like Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Preparedness when she made herself sound like a loon tesifying on Don't Ask Don't Tell last week.

Kline is more incisive and surgical than that, crisply calling into question whether there is any evidence that anti-transgender discrimination even exists and whether proposals to pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act constitute legislating for its own sake. In doing so, he has set up the Republican rationale for voting against any version of ENDA at all, let alone one that encompasses gender identity.

Committee Statement
June 26, 2008
CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
(202) 225-4527

Kline Statement: Subcommittee Hearing on "An Examination of Discrimination Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace"

Good morning. I'd like to begin by thanking the witnesses for taking time out of their schedules to be here. I would also like to express my appreciation to Chairman Andrews for his flexibility in scheduling this hearing.

The issue we are here to examine – gender identity and workplace discrimination – follows on the Majority's efforts last fall to include protections for transgender individuals in the employment non-discrimination legislation. The purpose of this general hearing is to allow for thorough and thoughtful consideration of this issue, and any future proposals that might affect the American people.

That said, I am somewhat puzzled as to why the Committee did not hold this hearing last year, before the Majority rushed to consider legislation on this issue.

Last September, this Subcommittee held the only hearing on this topic. It was a hearing on a prior bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which broadly aimed to prohibit organizations from discriminating in their employment practices against individuals on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. During that hearing, we heard testimony from experts who cautioned that some of the provisions in that bill could be confusing, difficult to comply with, and potentially fraught with litigation. Complex questions were raised about how that bill would impact employers; whether it would preserve religious freedom and encroach on employee privacy; and how it would comply with existing anti-discrimination statutes.

The bill's sponsors scrambled to address these questions and concerns. Ultimately, they decided to split the original ENDA bill, separating the protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and attempting to address some of the technical concerns. But only the new bill involving sexual orientation discrimination was rushed to the House Floor for a vote. The flawed bill still raised many of the same serious concerns that were previously identified. After the bill passed the House in November 2007, it stalled in the Senate, where it still awaits action.

I can only speculate as to why no legislative action was taken on the other bill that sought protections based on gender identity. Despite the good intentions of those who supported these proposals, there still appeared to be too much uncertainty and too many unanswered questions. This explains why we are here today, examining an issue that perhaps should have been reviewed in greater detail before rushing to legislate.

We are all committed to the principle that no employee should be subject to discrimination. Before we consider and enact any new federal mandates, however, we must first determine whether a new law is necessary. Is there evidence that this type of discrimination is occurring? Are current laws and employer policies unable to protect employees? We have numerous federal and state laws and employer policies already on the books that help prevent discriminatory practices. Do we need yet another federal law? It is my view that the role of this Committee, and Congress, is to build upon this framework only when needed, and to avoid legislating for its own sake.

I look forward to hearing the testimony to be offered by our witnesses about the practical impact, benefits, and problems associated with this issue. I'm pleased that we will hear multiple perspectives on this topic, and hope this testimony will help ensure that any future well-intentioned efforts do not result in harmful, unintended consequences.

I yield back the balance of my time.

No comments :

eXTReMe Tracker