GOP leadership intensifies attacks on gay Americans

WASHINGTON -- The GOP leadership escalated its crusade against equality for gay Americans today, with the introduction of the Hefley amendment to the Treasury-Postal Appropriations bill, which seeks to overturn President Clinton's May 28th executive order banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"This blatant attempt on the part of the GOP leadership to keep discrimination against gay Americans legal is against the spirit of freedom and tolerance on which this nation was founded. Clinton's executive order made it clear that discrimination against gay people in government is wrong and will not be tolerated, " says HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.

A "Dear Colleague" letter, written by four Republican members of the House, is being circulated around Capitol Hill today, asking members to support the Hefley amendment. The letter contains a panoply of untruths like the Clinton administration's executive order would force private contractors who service the federal government to be in compliance and that it would also grant "special protected status" based on sexual orientation. The four Republican Congressmen who signed the "Dear Colleague" letter are House Majority Whip, Tom Delay (TX), Joel Hefley (CO), Joe Aderholt (AL), John Hostettler (IN).

In response to the Hefley Amendment, Christopher Shays (R-CT) will join other Republican members of Congress and the Human Rights Campaign at an 11:30 AM press conference at the House Triangle, to speak out against this amendment.

"Enough is enough. This unprecedented wave of attacks against gay Americans must stop. Will it take an incident where someone is hurt or killed for the GOP leadership to realize their incendiary rhetoric leads to discrimination and other severe consequences?" said Stachelberg at the press conference.

"The letter is not only wrong in its facts, but it's also inconsistent and hypocritical," said Daniel McGlinchey, Interim Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democratic Federation. "First, the Executive Order has nothing to do with affirmative action. It establishes no quotas or outreach programs. It simply protects people, gay or straight, from abusive employment practices -- such as being harassed or fired or not promoted -- based solely on sexual orientation. Second, if the Republicans, as they claim in their letter, don't believe in granting protected status based on sexual orientation or for most other reasons, then why are they only focussing here on sexual orientation? This is another example of the Republicans relying on distortion to cover bigotry."

Before this executive order was issued, many federal agencies had their own separate policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. This often led to confusion amongst government workers as to whether or not they were protected. Contrary to the claims of the GOP leadership, this executive order helps clarify the law for government workers by bringing uniformity to existing anti-discrimination policies across the federal government.

The GOP leadership's push to keep discrimination legal is not in line with public opinion. An April, 1997 poll conducted for the Human Rights Campaign by the Tarrance Group, shows that eighty percent of the American public says that homosexuals should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities.

The order adds sexual orientation to the list of protected categories for which discrimination is already prohibited, i.e., race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap and age. In issuing the order, Clinton noted that this policy does not add any new enforcement rights, such as the ability of a civilian federal worker to appeal an anti-gay job discrimination case before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Human Rights Campaign is the nation's largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country, effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support, and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.

©1998 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.