Did you hear the news?
Kylar Broadus, founder of the Columbia, Mo., based Trans People of Color Coalition, is scheduled [to] be among five witnesses who’ll speak during the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee hearing titled, “Equality At Work: The Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”
What makes this particularly newsworthy?
Broadus is the first transgender person to testify before the Senate.
Given the statistics from a recent report on transgender discrimination, this is surprising:
Respondents lived in extreme poverty. Our sample was nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000/ year compared to the general population.
Ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it.
These are eye-popping numbers. Meanwhile, the lone witness for the opposition is this guy:
The Republican witness is Craig Parshall, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Religious Broadcasters Association. Parshall had already testified in 2009 against ENDA.
Parshall’s 2009 testimony included references to Boy Scouts of America v. Dale – an opinion I dissect here – and Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, in support of his declaration:
Private religious employers, like private associations, must be given the right to reject members or staff who would conflict with the religious organization’s declared mission and beliefs. A religious group has “the autonomy to choose the content of [it’s] own message.”
He seems to be misapplying Hurley, which determined “whether Massachusetts may require private citizens who organize a parade to include among the marchers a group imparting a message the organizers do not wish to convey.”
The Court wrote in Hurley:
Considering that GLIB presumably would have had a fair shot (under neutral criteria developed by the city) at obtaining a parade permit of its own, respondents have not shown that petitioners enjoy the capacity to “silence the voice of competing speakers,” as cable operators do with respect to program providers who wish to reach subscribers, Turner Broadcasting, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 32). Nor has any other legitimate interest been identified in support of applying the Massachusetts statute in this way to expressive activity like the parade.
I think there’s a “legitimate” interest in protecting unpopular minorities from employment discrimination:
Respondents who had lost a job due to bias also experienced ruinous consequences such as four times the rate of homelessness, 70% more current drinking or misuse of drugs to cope with mistreatment, 85% more incarceration, more than double the rate working in the underground economy, and more than double the HIV infection rate, compared to those who did not lose a job due to bias.
Considering the fact that displaced workers “presumably would [not] have […] a fair shot ([without] neutral criteria developed by the city) at obtaining” employment elsewhere due to their status as an unpopular minority, this seems to be a rather inappropriate application of Hurley. Misapplying a faulty ruling is typical of cherry pickers that grab the nearest court opinion and manipulate it to fit their narrow view.
Where general discrimination laws collide with sincerely held religious beliefs, religion often loses.
Religious beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, should not be a license to discriminate.
But Parshall cries:
We urge this Committee not to jettison the rights of people of faith, turn them into lesser privileges, or reduce them to a mere miniature of the concept that our Founder’s held. If that happens here, it means that we have set ourselves on a very dangerous path, a radical departure from those basic liberties for which our Founders risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
What the “dangerous path” is, he doesn’t say. There’s certainly plenty of implied dangers, like the suggested “confusion” apparently embedded in this passage from Prowel v. Wise Business Forms, Inc. which states “ … the line between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination ‘because of sex’ can be difficult to draw.” Parshall cites the passage as proof that “likely confusion by the courts is not just idle speculation.”
But Parshall only proves he is just another cherry-picking extremist bigot. Here’s the context:
As this appeal demonstrates, the line between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination “because of sex” can be difficult to draw. In granting summary judgment for Wise, the District Court found that Prowel’s claim fell clearly on one side of the line, holding that Prowel’s sex discrimination claim was an artfully-pleaded claim of sexual orientation discrimination. However, our analysis-viewing the facts and inferences in favor of Prowel-leads us to conclude that the record is ambiguous on this dispositive question. Accordingly, Prowel’s gender stereotyping claim must be submitted to a jury. [emphasis mine]
The “confusion” Parshall warns about isn’t quite as compelling when taken in full context. But that’s par for the course with people like Parshall: cherry-pick, warn of “confusion” and “threats to religious freedom” while saying pretty-sounding words about tradition and the Founding Fathers.
Mr. Parshall, you’re busted.
Look at what led to Brian Prowel’s lawsuit:
At some point during the last two years of Prowel’s employment, a pink, light-up, feather tiara with a package of lubricant jelly was left on his nale encoder. The items were removed after Prowel complained to Henry Nolan, the shift supervisor at that time. On March 24, 2004, as Prowel entered the plant, he overheard a co-worker state: “I hate him. They should shoot all the fags.” Prowel reported this remark to Nolan, who said he would look into it. Prowel also overheard conversations between co-workers, one of whom was a supervisor, who disapproved of how he lived his life. Finally, messages began to appear on the wall of the men’s bathroom, claiming Prowel had AIDS and engaged in sexual relations with male co-workers. After Prowel complained, the company repainted the restroom.
Strange that Mr. Parshall would cite this case to support his opposition to an anti-discrimination policy. Perhaps he figures that his intended audience doesn’t read court opinions.
The end result of the uncertainty created by Section 6 could well be that the supposed protections contained in its religious “exemption” in S. 1584 would prove in the end to have been only a mirage.
No, it’s the religious persecution claim that’s only a mirage.
On the other hand, there is ample data to support the real harm that transgender people face without employment protection – not even counting what the collective GLBT community faces daily. I hope Congress chooses to protect the real victims over the imaginary ones.