Understanding Robert Pittenger’s “freedoms” and “autonomy”

| September 30, 2014

Rob-SchofieldBy Rob Schofield, published in NC Policy Watch, September 30, 2014.

Last Friday afternoon, during my regular stint as a guest on a local conservative radio talk show, the subject of the day was Congressman Robert Pittenger and his recent, headline-grabbing statements about discrimination against gay Americans in the workplace. As you will no doubt recall, Pittenger isn’t terribly concerned about the problem or enthusiastic about the federal government enacting laws to help guard against it.

As Chris Fitzsimon explained last week:

North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger made headlines recently for suggesting that firing people from their jobs solely because they are gay is one of the “freedoms we enjoy” as Americans.

Pittenger’s startlingly offensive remarks came as supporters of a federal employment non-discrimination act that would protect gay workers on the job are trying to force a vote on the proposal in the U.S. House.

Pittenger first made the comments to a national reporter after a town hall event and the Charlotte Observer reports that he stood by them in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, saying that hiring and firing decisions should be left to the free market and “government intervention is not the best solution to matters of the heart.”

As has also been reported in several other places (you can listen to the actual unedited interview that ignited the whole discussion by clicking here) Pittenger expressed the concern that laws barring discrimination in employment against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals would interfere with the “autonomy” that businesses ought to have to make hiring and firing decisions without government interference.

The response to Pittenger’s comments has been strongly negative – at least in polite circles. Indeed, the congressman has received so much unfavorable publicity – from a disapproving editorial in his hometown newspaper to the spectacle of petitions of protest containing 30,000 signatures being delivered to his office – that he attempted a kind of strategic retreat on the issue last week. WSOC TV in Charlotte reported that: “The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement. They said Pittenger told a blogger he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.”

A debate over fundamentals

Whether or not Pittenger gets away with his attempt to back down from his own recorded remarks and paper over the hate and ignorance to which they give voice will be interesting to see, but for now, sadly, there are plenty of people – especially in not-so-polite venues – who are happy to take up his mantle. This fact was brought home to me during last Friday’s show by both the host and some anonymous callers who alternated between two basic arguments – each of which deserves to be refuted.

Argument #1 – which was espoused by a couple of the more overtly hostile callers – is what one might characterize as the direct and familiar “pretend gays aren’t there” approach. In this narrative, one’s sexual orientation or identity is a “lifestyle choice” that should be kept to oneself and anti-discrimination laws are nothing better than an attempt to secure “special privileges” by people who revel in being victims.

Central to this argument is the contention that anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace simply doesn’t exist (or is extremely rare) and that it would be impossible to prove and police anyway. When I related the story of a lesbian professional in RTP who found herself afraid to display a photo of her family on her desk at work for fear of retribution, one caller described the scenario as imaginary and demanded that I produce statistics to back up my contention that such situations are commonplace.

Lacking them at my fingertips at the time, I offer them now.

Last year, in a brief explaining the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) experts at the Center for American Progress reported that:

LGBT employees continue to face widespread discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Specifically, 8 percent to 17 percent of LGB workers report being passed over for a job or being fired because of their sexual orientation; 10 percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were LGB; and 7 percent to 41 percent of LGB workers encountered harassment, abuse, or antigay vandalism on the job. Rates of discrimination are especially high among people of color who identify as LGBT.

Transgender workers in particular experience high rates of employment discrimination. An astonishing 90 percent of transgender people report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job or report having taken action such as hiding who they really are to avoid it. As with LGB employees, rates of employment discrimination are especially pronounced among transgender people of color.

In other words, the notion that workplace discrimination against LGBT people is an imaginary problem is absurd. Those who try to deny it or imagine it away are simply kidding themselves. Those of us who have even a modicum of experience in the real world know the truth instinctively.

Argument #2 – which was espoused by the host and some other callers – is a variant on Pittenger’s argument and is, in some ways, the more pernicious and worrisome of the two. According to this take, workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals is real and objectionable, but the government has no business in getting involved. Rather, it would be better if consumers boycotted businesses that engage in discrimination and bring the pressures of “the market” to bear in order to effect change.

The obvious response to this argument – and what makes the sincerity of its proponents so worrisome, of course – is the fact that the same thing could be said (and, indeed, was said 50 years ago) about the protections against racial discrimination contained in the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The plain and hard truth is that public opinion and boycotts simply don’t and won’t work when it comes to real life discrimination in many, many situations. That’s one of the key points of civil rights laws – to step in when and where the unfettered market isn’t working.

And if this is going to be our approach – that bigoted and discriminatory behavior which selects certain classes of people for substandard treatment is simply something that should be left to, in effect, public opinion – then the modern American right wing really is bent on taking the country in a frightening direction.

A broader debate?

And, indeed, this is what is ultimately most worrisome about the claims of those who would deny the need for legislation like ENDA based on a supposed faith in “market forces” to curb things like workplace discrimination. Not only does such an argument slap a cloak of legitimacy on a position that, in effect, undergirds hate and intolerance, it also serves to further undermine two simple concepts that ought to have been settled long ago: a) that citizens in a democracy can establish basic rules of fair treatment for all people, and b) that the “market’ serves the people, rather than the other way around.

Let’s hope Americans keep these truths in mind during the months ahead and quickly consign the narrow and destructive views of the Robert Pittenegers of the world to the dustbin of history where they belong.

http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/09/30/understanding-robert-pittengers-freedoms-and-autonomy/

Last Friday afternoon, during my regular stint as a guest on a local conservative radio talk show, the subject of the day was Congressman Robert Pittenger and his recent, headline-grabbing statements about discrimination against gay Americans in the workplace. As you will no doubt recall, Pittenger isn’t terribly concerned about the problem or enthusiastic about the federal government enacting laws to help guard against it.

As Chris Fitzsimon explained last week:

North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger made headlines recently for suggesting that firing people from their jobs solely because they are gay is one of the “freedoms we enjoy” as Americans.

Pittenger’s startlingly offensive remarks came as supporters of a federal employment non-discrimination act that would protect gay workers on the job are trying to force a vote on the proposal in the U.S. House.

Pittenger first made the comments to a national reporter after a town hall event and the Charlotte Observer reports that he stood by them in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, saying that hiring and firing decisions should be left to the free market and “government intervention is not the best solution to matters of the heart.”

As has also been reported in several other places (you can listen to the actual unedited interview that ignited the whole discussion by clicking here) Pittenger expressed the concern that laws barring discrimination in employment against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals would interfere with the “autonomy” that businesses ought to have to make hiring and firing decisions without government interference.

The response to Pittenger’s comments has been strongly negative – at least in polite circles. Indeed, the congressman has received so much unfavorable publicity – from a disapproving editorial in his hometown newspaper to the spectacle of petitions of protest containing 30,000 signatures being delivered to his office – that he attempted a kind of strategic retreat on the issue last week. WSOC TV in Charlotte reported that: “The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement. They said Pittenger told a blogger he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.”

A debate over fundamentals

Whether or not Pittenger gets away with his attempt to back down from his own recorded remarks and paper over the hate and ignorance to which they give voice will be interesting to see, but for now, sadly, there are plenty of people – especially in not-so-polite venues – who are happy to take up his mantle. This fact was brought home to me during last Friday’s show by both the host and some anonymous callers who alternated between two basic arguments – each of which deserves to be refuted.

Argument #1 – which was espoused by a couple of the more overtly hostile callers – is what one might characterize as the direct and familiar “pretend gays aren’t there” approach. In this narrative, one’s sexual orientation or identity is a “lifestyle choice” that should be kept to oneself and anti-discrimination laws are nothing better than an attempt to secure “special privileges” by people who revel in being victims.

Central to this argument is the contention that anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace simply doesn’t exist (or is extremely rare) and that it would be impossible to prove and police anyway. When I related the story of a lesbian professional in RTP who found herself afraid to display a photo of her family on her desk at work for fear of retribution, one caller described the scenario as imaginary and demanded that I produce statistics to back up my contention that such situations are commonplace.

Lacking them at my fingertips at the time, I offer them now.

Last year, in a brief explaining the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) experts at the Center for American Progress reported that:

LGBT employees continue to face widespread discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Specifically, 8 percent to 17 percent of LGB workers report being passed over for a job or being fired because of their sexual orientation; 10 percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were LGB; and 7 percent to 41 percent of LGB workers encountered harassment, abuse, or antigay vandalism on the job. Rates of discrimination are especially high among people of color who identify as LGBT.

Transgender workers in particular experience high rates of employment discrimination. An astonishing 90 percent of transgender people report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job or report having taken action such as hiding who they really are to avoid it. As with LGB employees, rates of employment discrimination are especially pronounced among transgender people of color.

In other words, the notion that workplace discrimination against LGBT people is an imaginary problem is absurd. Those who try to deny it or imagine it away are simply kidding themselves. Those of us who have even a modicum of experience in the real world know the truth instinctively.

Argument #2 – which was espoused by the host and some other callers – is a variant on Pittenger’s argument and is, in some ways, the more pernicious and worrisome of the two. According to this take, workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals is real and objectionable, but the government has no business in getting involved. Rather, it would be better if consumers boycotted businesses that engage in discrimination and bring the pressures of “the market” to bear in order to effect change.

The obvious response to this argument – and what makes the sincerity of its proponents so worrisome, of course – is the fact that the same thing could be said (and, indeed, was said 50 years ago) about the protections against racial discrimination contained in the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The plain and hard truth is that public opinion and boycotts simply don’t and won’t work when it comes to real life discrimination in many, many situations. That’s one of the key points of civil rights laws – to step in when and where the unfettered market isn’t working.

And if this is going to be our approach – that bigoted and discriminatory behavior which selects certain classes of people for substandard treatment is simply something that should be left to, in effect, public opinion – then the modern American right wing really is bent on taking the country in a frightening direction.

A broader debate?

And, indeed, this is what is ultimately most worrisome about the claims of those who would deny the need for legislation like ENDA based on a supposed faith in “market forces” to curb things like workplace discrimination. Not only does such an argument slap a cloak of legitimacy on a position that, in effect, undergirds hate and intolerance, it also serves to further undermine two simple concepts that ought to have been settled long ago: a) that citizens in a democracy can establish basic rules of fair treatment for all people, and b) that the “market’ serves the people, rather than the other way around.

Let’s hope Americans keep these truths in mind during the months ahead and quickly consign the narrow and destructive views of the Robert Pittenegers of the world to the dustbin of history where they belong.

– See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/09/30/understanding-robert-pittengers-freedoms-and-autonomy/#sthash.SsCsbQdl.dpuf

Last Friday afternoon, during my regular stint as a guest on a local conservative radio talk show, the subject of the day was Congressman Robert Pittenger and his recent, headline-grabbing statements about discrimination against gay Americans in the workplace. As you will no doubt recall, Pittenger isn’t terribly concerned about the problem or enthusiastic about the federal government enacting laws to help guard against it.

As Chris Fitzsimon explained last week:

North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger made headlines recently for suggesting that firing people from their jobs solely because they are gay is one of the “freedoms we enjoy” as Americans.

Pittenger’s startlingly offensive remarks came as supporters of a federal employment non-discrimination act that would protect gay workers on the job are trying to force a vote on the proposal in the U.S. House.

Pittenger first made the comments to a national reporter after a town hall event and the Charlotte Observer reports that he stood by them in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, saying that hiring and firing decisions should be left to the free market and “government intervention is not the best solution to matters of the heart.”

As has also been reported in several other places (you can listen to the actual unedited interview that ignited the whole discussion by clicking here) Pittenger expressed the concern that laws barring discrimination in employment against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals would interfere with the “autonomy” that businesses ought to have to make hiring and firing decisions without government interference.

The response to Pittenger’s comments has been strongly negative – at least in polite circles. Indeed, the congressman has received so much unfavorable publicity – from a disapproving editorial in his hometown newspaper to the spectacle of petitions of protest containing 30,000 signatures being delivered to his office – that he attempted a kind of strategic retreat on the issue last week. WSOC TV in Charlotte reported that: “The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement. They said Pittenger told a blogger he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.”

A debate over fundamentals

Whether or not Pittenger gets away with his attempt to back down from his own recorded remarks and paper over the hate and ignorance to which they give voice will be interesting to see, but for now, sadly, there are plenty of people – especially in not-so-polite venues – who are happy to take up his mantle. This fact was brought home to me during last Friday’s show by both the host and some anonymous callers who alternated between two basic arguments – each of which deserves to be refuted.

Argument #1 – which was espoused by a couple of the more overtly hostile callers – is what one might characterize as the direct and familiar “pretend gays aren’t there” approach. In this narrative, one’s sexual orientation or identity is a “lifestyle choice” that should be kept to oneself and anti-discrimination laws are nothing better than an attempt to secure “special privileges” by people who revel in being victims.

Central to this argument is the contention that anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace simply doesn’t exist (or is extremely rare) and that it would be impossible to prove and police anyway. When I related the story of a lesbian professional in RTP who found herself afraid to display a photo of her family on her desk at work for fear of retribution, one caller described the scenario as imaginary and demanded that I produce statistics to back up my contention that such situations are commonplace.

Lacking them at my fingertips at the time, I offer them now.

Last year, in a brief explaining the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) experts at the Center for American Progress reported that:

LGBT employees continue to face widespread discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Specifically, 8 percent to 17 percent of LGB workers report being passed over for a job or being fired because of their sexual orientation; 10 percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were LGB; and 7 percent to 41 percent of LGB workers encountered harassment, abuse, or antigay vandalism on the job. Rates of discrimination are especially high among people of color who identify as LGBT.

Transgender workers in particular experience high rates of employment discrimination. An astonishing 90 percent of transgender people report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job or report having taken action such as hiding who they really are to avoid it. As with LGB employees, rates of employment discrimination are especially pronounced among transgender people of color.

In other words, the notion that workplace discrimination against LGBT people is an imaginary problem is absurd. Those who try to deny it or imagine it away are simply kidding themselves. Those of us who have even a modicum of experience in the real world know the truth instinctively.

Argument #2 – which was espoused by the host and some other callers – is a variant on Pittenger’s argument and is, in some ways, the more pernicious and worrisome of the two. According to this take, workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals is real and objectionable, but the government has no business in getting involved. Rather, it would be better if consumers boycotted businesses that engage in discrimination and bring the pressures of “the market” to bear in order to effect change.

The obvious response to this argument – and what makes the sincerity of its proponents so worrisome, of course – is the fact that the same thing could be said (and, indeed, was said 50 years ago) about the protections against racial discrimination contained in the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The plain and hard truth is that public opinion and boycotts simply don’t and won’t work when it comes to real life discrimination in many, many situations. That’s one of the key points of civil rights laws – to step in when and where the unfettered market isn’t working.

And if this is going to be our approach – that bigoted and discriminatory behavior which selects certain classes of people for substandard treatment is simply something that should be left to, in effect, public opinion – then the modern American right wing really is bent on taking the country in a frightening direction.

A broader debate?

And, indeed, this is what is ultimately most worrisome about the claims of those who would deny the need for legislation like ENDA based on a supposed faith in “market forces” to curb things like workplace discrimination. Not only does such an argument slap a cloak of legitimacy on a position that, in effect, undergirds hate and intolerance, it also serves to further undermine two simple concepts that ought to have been settled long ago: a) that citizens in a democracy can establish basic rules of fair treatment for all people, and b) that the “market’ serves the people, rather than the other way around.

Let’s hope Americans keep these truths in mind during the months ahead and quickly consign the narrow and destructive views of the Robert Pittenegers of the world to the dustbin of history where they belong.

– See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/09/30/understanding-robert-pittengers-freedoms-and-autonomy/#sthash.SsCsbQdl.dpuf

Last Friday afternoon, during my regular stint as a guest on a local conservative radio talk show, the subject of the day was Congressman Robert Pittenger and his recent, headline-grabbing statements about discrimination against gay Americans in the workplace. As you will no doubt recall, Pittenger isn’t terribly concerned about the problem or enthusiastic about the federal government enacting laws to help guard against it.

As Chris Fitzsimon explained last week:

North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger made headlines recently for suggesting that firing people from their jobs solely because they are gay is one of the “freedoms we enjoy” as Americans.

Pittenger’s startlingly offensive remarks came as supporters of a federal employment non-discrimination act that would protect gay workers on the job are trying to force a vote on the proposal in the U.S. House.

Pittenger first made the comments to a national reporter after a town hall event and the Charlotte Observer reports that he stood by them in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, saying that hiring and firing decisions should be left to the free market and “government intervention is not the best solution to matters of the heart.”

As has also been reported in several other places (you can listen to the actual unedited interview that ignited the whole discussion by clicking here) Pittenger expressed the concern that laws barring discrimination in employment against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals would interfere with the “autonomy” that businesses ought to have to make hiring and firing decisions without government interference.

The response to Pittenger’s comments has been strongly negative – at least in polite circles. Indeed, the congressman has received so much unfavorable publicity – from a disapproving editorial in his hometown newspaper to the spectacle of petitions of protest containing 30,000 signatures being delivered to his office – that he attempted a kind of strategic retreat on the issue last week. WSOC TV in Charlotte reported that: “The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement. They said Pittenger told a blogger he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.”

A debate over fundamentals

Whether or not Pittenger gets away with his attempt to back down from his own recorded remarks and paper over the hate and ignorance to which they give voice will be interesting to see, but for now, sadly, there are plenty of people – especially in not-so-polite venues – who are happy to take up his mantle. This fact was brought home to me during last Friday’s show by both the host and some anonymous callers who alternated between two basic arguments – each of which deserves to be refuted.

Argument #1 – which was espoused by a couple of the more overtly hostile callers – is what one might characterize as the direct and familiar “pretend gays aren’t there” approach. In this narrative, one’s sexual orientation or identity is a “lifestyle choice” that should be kept to oneself and anti-discrimination laws are nothing better than an attempt to secure “special privileges” by people who revel in being victims.

Central to this argument is the contention that anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace simply doesn’t exist (or is extremely rare) and that it would be impossible to prove and police anyway. When I related the story of a lesbian professional in RTP who found herself afraid to display a photo of her family on her desk at work for fear of retribution, one caller described the scenario as imaginary and demanded that I produce statistics to back up my contention that such situations are commonplace.

Lacking them at my fingertips at the time, I offer them now.

Last year, in a brief explaining the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) experts at the Center for American Progress reported that:

LGBT employees continue to face widespread discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Specifically, 8 percent to 17 percent of LGB workers report being passed over for a job or being fired because of their sexual orientation; 10 percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were LGB; and 7 percent to 41 percent of LGB workers encountered harassment, abuse, or antigay vandalism on the job. Rates of discrimination are especially high among people of color who identify as LGBT.

Transgender workers in particular experience high rates of employment discrimination. An astonishing 90 percent of transgender people report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job or report having taken action such as hiding who they really are to avoid it. As with LGB employees, rates of employment discrimination are especially pronounced among transgender people of color.

In other words, the notion that workplace discrimination against LGBT people is an imaginary problem is absurd. Those who try to deny it or imagine it away are simply kidding themselves. Those of us who have even a modicum of experience in the real world know the truth instinctively.

Argument #2 – which was espoused by the host and some other callers – is a variant on Pittenger’s argument and is, in some ways, the more pernicious and worrisome of the two. According to this take, workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals is real and objectionable, but the government has no business in getting involved. Rather, it would be better if consumers boycotted businesses that engage in discrimination and bring the pressures of “the market” to bear in order to effect change.

The obvious response to this argument – and what makes the sincerity of its proponents so worrisome, of course – is the fact that the same thing could be said (and, indeed, was said 50 years ago) about the protections against racial discrimination contained in the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The plain and hard truth is that public opinion and boycotts simply don’t and won’t work when it comes to real life discrimination in many, many situations. That’s one of the key points of civil rights laws – to step in when and where the unfettered market isn’t working.

And if this is going to be our approach – that bigoted and discriminatory behavior which selects certain classes of people for substandard treatment is simply something that should be left to, in effect, public opinion – then the modern American right wing really is bent on taking the country in a frightening direction.

A broader debate?

And, indeed, this is what is ultimately most worrisome about the claims of those who would deny the need for legislation like ENDA based on a supposed faith in “market forces” to curb things like workplace discrimination. Not only does such an argument slap a cloak of legitimacy on a position that, in effect, undergirds hate and intolerance, it also serves to further undermine two simple concepts that ought to have been settled long ago: a) that citizens in a democracy can establish basic rules of fair treatment for all people, and b) that the “market’ serves the people, rather than the other way around.

Let’s hope Americans keep these truths in mind during the months ahead and quickly consign the narrow and destructive views of the Robert Pittenegers of the world to the dustbin of history where they belong.

– See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/09/30/understanding-robert-pittengers-freedoms-and-autonomy/#sthash.SsCsbQdl.dpuf

Weekly Briefing

Understanding Robert Pittenger’s “freedoms” and “autonomy”

wb-930

The reality of anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace and the efforts to protect it

Last Friday afternoon, during my regular stint as a guest on a local conservative radio talk show, the subject of the day was Congressman Robert Pittenger and his recent, headline-grabbing statements about discrimination against gay Americans in the workplace. As you will no doubt recall, Pittenger isn’t terribly concerned about the problem or enthusiastic about the federal government enacting laws to help guard against it.

As Chris Fitzsimon explained last week:

North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger made headlines recently for suggesting that firing people from their jobs solely because they are gay is one of the “freedoms we enjoy” as Americans.

Pittenger’s startlingly offensive remarks came as supporters of a federal employment non-discrimination act that would protect gay workers on the job are trying to force a vote on the proposal in the U.S. House.

Pittenger first made the comments to a national reporter after a town hall event and the Charlotte Observer reports that he stood by them in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, saying that hiring and firing decisions should be left to the free market and “government intervention is not the best solution to matters of the heart.”

As has also been reported in several other places (you can listen to the actual unedited interview that ignited the whole discussion by clicking here) Pittenger expressed the concern that laws barring discrimination in employment against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals would interfere with the “autonomy” that businesses ought to have to make hiring and firing decisions without government interference.

The response to Pittenger’s comments has been strongly negative – at least in polite circles. Indeed, the congressman has received so much unfavorable publicity – from a disapproving editorial in his hometown newspaper to the spectacle of petitions of protest containing 30,000 signatures being delivered to his office – that he attempted a kind of strategic retreat on the issue last week. WSOC TV in Charlotte reported that: “The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement. They said Pittenger told a blogger he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.”

A debate over fundamentals

Whether or not Pittenger gets away with his attempt to back down from his own recorded remarks and paper over the hate and ignorance to which they give voice will be interesting to see, but for now, sadly, there are plenty of people – especially in not-so-polite venues – who are happy to take up his mantle. This fact was brought home to me during last Friday’s show by both the host and some anonymous callers who alternated between two basic arguments – each of which deserves to be refuted.

Argument #1 – which was espoused by a couple of the more overtly hostile callers – is what one might characterize as the direct and familiar “pretend gays aren’t there” approach. In this narrative, one’s sexual orientation or identity is a “lifestyle choice” that should be kept to oneself and anti-discrimination laws are nothing better than an attempt to secure “special privileges” by people who revel in being victims.

Central to this argument is the contention that anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace simply doesn’t exist (or is extremely rare) and that it would be impossible to prove and police anyway. When I related the story of a lesbian professional in RTP who found herself afraid to display a photo of her family on her desk at work for fear of retribution, one caller described the scenario as imaginary and demanded that I produce statistics to back up my contention that such situations are commonplace.

Lacking them at my fingertips at the time, I offer them now.

Last year, in a brief explaining the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) experts at the Center for American Progress reported that:

LGBT employees continue to face widespread discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Specifically, 8 percent to 17 percent of LGB workers report being passed over for a job or being fired because of their sexual orientation; 10 percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were LGB; and 7 percent to 41 percent of LGB workers encountered harassment, abuse, or antigay vandalism on the job. Rates of discrimination are especially high among people of color who identify as LGBT.

Transgender workers in particular experience high rates of employment discrimination. An astonishing 90 percent of transgender people report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job or report having taken action such as hiding who they really are to avoid it. As with LGB employees, rates of employment discrimination are especially pronounced among transgender people of color.

In other words, the notion that workplace discrimination against LGBT people is an imaginary problem is absurd. Those who try to deny it or imagine it away are simply kidding themselves. Those of us who have even a modicum of experience in the real world know the truth instinctively.

Argument #2 – which was espoused by the host and some other callers – is a variant on Pittenger’s argument and is, in some ways, the more pernicious and worrisome of the two. According to this take, workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals is real and objectionable, but the government has no business in getting involved. Rather, it would be better if consumers boycotted businesses that engage in discrimination and bring the pressures of “the market” to bear in order to effect change.

The obvious response to this argument – and what makes the sincerity of its proponents so worrisome, of course – is the fact that the same thing could be said (and, indeed, was said 50 years ago) about the protections against racial discrimination contained in the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The plain and hard truth is that public opinion and boycotts simply don’t and won’t work when it comes to real life discrimination in many, many situations. That’s one of the key points of civil rights laws – to step in when and where the unfettered market isn’t working.

And if this is going to be our approach – that bigoted and discriminatory behavior which selects certain classes of people for substandard treatment is simply something that should be left to, in effect, public opinion – then the modern American right wing really is bent on taking the country in a frightening direction.

A broader debate?

And, indeed, this is what is ultimately most worrisome about the claims of those who would deny the need for legislation like ENDA based on a supposed faith in “market forces” to curb things like workplace discrimination. Not only does such an argument slap a cloak of legitimacy on a position that, in effect, undergirds hate and intolerance, it also serves to further undermine two simple concepts that ought to have been settled long ago: a) that citizens in a democracy can establish basic rules of fair treatment for all people, and b) that the “market’ serves the people, rather than the other way around.

Let’s hope Americans keep these truths in mind during the months ahead and quickly consign the narrow and destructive views of the Robert Pittenegers of the world to the dustbin of history where they belong.

– See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/09/30/understanding-robert-pittengers-freedoms-and-autonomy/#sthash.SsCsbQdl.dpuf

Weekly Briefing

Understanding Robert Pittenger’s “freedoms” and “autonomy”

wb-930

The reality of anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace and the efforts to protect it

Last Friday afternoon, during my regular stint as a guest on a local conservative radio talk show, the subject of the day was Congressman Robert Pittenger and his recent, headline-grabbing statements about discrimination against gay Americans in the workplace. As you will no doubt recall, Pittenger isn’t terribly concerned about the problem or enthusiastic about the federal government enacting laws to help guard against it.

As Chris Fitzsimon explained last week:

North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger made headlines recently for suggesting that firing people from their jobs solely because they are gay is one of the “freedoms we enjoy” as Americans.

Pittenger’s startlingly offensive remarks came as supporters of a federal employment non-discrimination act that would protect gay workers on the job are trying to force a vote on the proposal in the U.S. House.

Pittenger first made the comments to a national reporter after a town hall event and the Charlotte Observer reports that he stood by them in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, saying that hiring and firing decisions should be left to the free market and “government intervention is not the best solution to matters of the heart.”

As has also been reported in several other places (you can listen to the actual unedited interview that ignited the whole discussion by clicking here) Pittenger expressed the concern that laws barring discrimination in employment against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals would interfere with the “autonomy” that businesses ought to have to make hiring and firing decisions without government interference.

The response to Pittenger’s comments has been strongly negative – at least in polite circles. Indeed, the congressman has received so much unfavorable publicity – from a disapproving editorial in his hometown newspaper to the spectacle of petitions of protest containing 30,000 signatures being delivered to his office – that he attempted a kind of strategic retreat on the issue last week. WSOC TV in Charlotte reported that: “The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement. They said Pittenger told a blogger he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.”

A debate over fundamentals

Whether or not Pittenger gets away with his attempt to back down from his own recorded remarks and paper over the hate and ignorance to which they give voice will be interesting to see, but for now, sadly, there are plenty of people – especially in not-so-polite venues – who are happy to take up his mantle. This fact was brought home to me during last Friday’s show by both the host and some anonymous callers who alternated between two basic arguments – each of which deserves to be refuted.

Argument #1 – which was espoused by a couple of the more overtly hostile callers – is what one might characterize as the direct and familiar “pretend gays aren’t there” approach. In this narrative, one’s sexual orientation or identity is a “lifestyle choice” that should be kept to oneself and anti-discrimination laws are nothing better than an attempt to secure “special privileges” by people who revel in being victims.

Central to this argument is the contention that anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace simply doesn’t exist (or is extremely rare) and that it would be impossible to prove and police anyway. When I related the story of a lesbian professional in RTP who found herself afraid to display a photo of her family on her desk at work for fear of retribution, one caller described the scenario as imaginary and demanded that I produce statistics to back up my contention that such situations are commonplace.

Lacking them at my fingertips at the time, I offer them now.

Last year, in a brief explaining the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) experts at the Center for American Progress reported that:

LGBT employees continue to face widespread discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Specifically, 8 percent to 17 percent of LGB workers report being passed over for a job or being fired because of their sexual orientation; 10 percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were LGB; and 7 percent to 41 percent of LGB workers encountered harassment, abuse, or antigay vandalism on the job. Rates of discrimination are especially high among people of color who identify as LGBT.

Transgender workers in particular experience high rates of employment discrimination. An astonishing 90 percent of transgender people report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job or report having taken action such as hiding who they really are to avoid it. As with LGB employees, rates of employment discrimination are especially pronounced among transgender people of color.

In other words, the notion that workplace discrimination against LGBT people is an imaginary problem is absurd. Those who try to deny it or imagine it away are simply kidding themselves. Those of us who have even a modicum of experience in the real world know the truth instinctively.

Argument #2 – which was espoused by the host and some other callers – is a variant on Pittenger’s argument and is, in some ways, the more pernicious and worrisome of the two. According to this take, workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals is real and objectionable, but the government has no business in getting involved. Rather, it would be better if consumers boycotted businesses that engage in discrimination and bring the pressures of “the market” to bear in order to effect change.

The obvious response to this argument – and what makes the sincerity of its proponents so worrisome, of course – is the fact that the same thing could be said (and, indeed, was said 50 years ago) about the protections against racial discrimination contained in the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The plain and hard truth is that public opinion and boycotts simply don’t and won’t work when it comes to real life discrimination in many, many situations. That’s one of the key points of civil rights laws – to step in when and where the unfettered market isn’t working.

And if this is going to be our approach – that bigoted and discriminatory behavior which selects certain classes of people for substandard treatment is simply something that should be left to, in effect, public opinion – then the modern American right wing really is bent on taking the country in a frightening direction.

A broader debate?

And, indeed, this is what is ultimately most worrisome about the claims of those who would deny the need for legislation like ENDA based on a supposed faith in “market forces” to curb things like workplace discrimination. Not only does such an argument slap a cloak of legitimacy on a position that, in effect, undergirds hate and intolerance, it also serves to further undermine two simple concepts that ought to have been settled long ago: a) that citizens in a democracy can establish basic rules of fair treatment for all people, and b) that the “market’ serves the people, rather than the other way around.

Let’s hope Americans keep these truths in mind during the months ahead and quickly consign the narrow and destructive views of the Robert Pittenegers of the world to the dustbin of history where they belong.

– See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/09/30/understanding-robert-pittengers-freedoms-and-autonomy/#sthash.SsCsbQdl.dpuf

Weekly Briefing

Understanding Robert Pittenger’s “freedoms” and “autonomy”

wb-930

The reality of anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace and the efforts to protect it

Last Friday afternoon, during my regular stint as a guest on a local conservative radio talk show, the subject of the day was Congressman Robert Pittenger and his recent, headline-grabbing statements about discrimination against gay Americans in the workplace. As you will no doubt recall, Pittenger isn’t terribly concerned about the problem or enthusiastic about the federal government enacting laws to help guard against it.

As Chris Fitzsimon explained last week:

North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger made headlines recently for suggesting that firing people from their jobs solely because they are gay is one of the “freedoms we enjoy” as Americans.

Pittenger’s startlingly offensive remarks came as supporters of a federal employment non-discrimination act that would protect gay workers on the job are trying to force a vote on the proposal in the U.S. House.

Pittenger first made the comments to a national reporter after a town hall event and the Charlotte Observer reports that he stood by them in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, saying that hiring and firing decisions should be left to the free market and “government intervention is not the best solution to matters of the heart.”

As has also been reported in several other places (you can listen to the actual unedited interview that ignited the whole discussion by clicking here) Pittenger expressed the concern that laws barring discrimination in employment against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals would interfere with the “autonomy” that businesses ought to have to make hiring and firing decisions without government interference.

The response to Pittenger’s comments has been strongly negative – at least in polite circles. Indeed, the congressman has received so much unfavorable publicity – from a disapproving editorial in his hometown newspaper to the spectacle of petitions of protest containing 30,000 signatures being delivered to his office – that he attempted a kind of strategic retreat on the issue last week. WSOC TV in Charlotte reported that: “The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement. They said Pittenger told a blogger he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.”

A debate over fundamentals

Whether or not Pittenger gets away with his attempt to back down from his own recorded remarks and paper over the hate and ignorance to which they give voice will be interesting to see, but for now, sadly, there are plenty of people – especially in not-so-polite venues – who are happy to take up his mantle. This fact was brought home to me during last Friday’s show by both the host and some anonymous callers who alternated between two basic arguments – each of which deserves to be refuted.

Argument #1 – which was espoused by a couple of the more overtly hostile callers – is what one might characterize as the direct and familiar “pretend gays aren’t there” approach. In this narrative, one’s sexual orientation or identity is a “lifestyle choice” that should be kept to oneself and anti-discrimination laws are nothing better than an attempt to secure “special privileges” by people who revel in being victims.

Central to this argument is the contention that anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace simply doesn’t exist (or is extremely rare) and that it would be impossible to prove and police anyway. When I related the story of a lesbian professional in RTP who found herself afraid to display a photo of her family on her desk at work for fear of retribution, one caller described the scenario as imaginary and demanded that I produce statistics to back up my contention that such situations are commonplace.

Lacking them at my fingertips at the time, I offer them now.

Last year, in a brief explaining the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) experts at the Center for American Progress reported that:

LGBT employees continue to face widespread discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Specifically, 8 percent to 17 percent of LGB workers report being passed over for a job or being fired because of their sexual orientation; 10 percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were LGB; and 7 percent to 41 percent of LGB workers encountered harassment, abuse, or antigay vandalism on the job. Rates of discrimination are especially high among people of color who identify as LGBT.

Transgender workers in particular experience high rates of employment discrimination. An astonishing 90 percent of transgender people report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job or report having taken action such as hiding who they really are to avoid it. As with LGB employees, rates of employment discrimination are especially pronounced among transgender people of color.

In other words, the notion that workplace discrimination against LGBT people is an imaginary problem is absurd. Those who try to deny it or imagine it away are simply kidding themselves. Those of us who have even a modicum of experience in the real world know the truth instinctively.

Argument #2 – which was espoused by the host and some other callers – is a variant on Pittenger’s argument and is, in some ways, the more pernicious and worrisome of the two. According to this take, workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals is real and objectionable, but the government has no business in getting involved. Rather, it would be better if consumers boycotted businesses that engage in discrimination and bring the pressures of “the market” to bear in order to effect change.

The obvious response to this argument – and what makes the sincerity of its proponents so worrisome, of course – is the fact that the same thing could be said (and, indeed, was said 50 years ago) about the protections against racial discrimination contained in the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The plain and hard truth is that public opinion and boycotts simply don’t and won’t work when it comes to real life discrimination in many, many situations. That’s one of the key points of civil rights laws – to step in when and where the unfettered market isn’t working.

And if this is going to be our approach – that bigoted and discriminatory behavior which selects certain classes of people for substandard treatment is simply something that should be left to, in effect, public opinion – then the modern American right wing really is bent on taking the country in a frightening direction.

A broader debate?

And, indeed, this is what is ultimately most worrisome about the claims of those who would deny the need for legislation like ENDA based on a supposed faith in “market forces” to curb things like workplace discrimination. Not only does such an argument slap a cloak of legitimacy on a position that, in effect, undergirds hate and intolerance, it also serves to further undermine two simple concepts that ought to have been settled long ago: a) that citizens in a democracy can establish basic rules of fair treatment for all people, and b) that the “market’ serves the people, rather than the other way around.

Let’s hope Americans keep these truths in mind during the months ahead and quickly consign the narrow and destructive views of the Robert Pittenegers of the world to the dustbin of history where they belong.

– See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/09/30/understanding-robert-pittengers-freedoms-and-autonomy/#sthash.SsCsbQdl.dpuf

Weekly Briefing

Understanding Robert Pittenger’s “freedoms” and “autonomy”

wb-930

The reality of anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace and the efforts to protect it

Last Friday afternoon, during my regular stint as a guest on a local conservative radio talk show, the subject of the day was Congressman Robert Pittenger and his recent, headline-grabbing statements about discrimination against gay Americans in the workplace. As you will no doubt recall, Pittenger isn’t terribly concerned about the problem or enthusiastic about the federal government enacting laws to help guard against it.

As Chris Fitzsimon explained last week:

North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger made headlines recently for suggesting that firing people from their jobs solely because they are gay is one of the “freedoms we enjoy” as Americans.

Pittenger’s startlingly offensive remarks came as supporters of a federal employment non-discrimination act that would protect gay workers on the job are trying to force a vote on the proposal in the U.S. House.

Pittenger first made the comments to a national reporter after a town hall event and the Charlotte Observer reports that he stood by them in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board, saying that hiring and firing decisions should be left to the free market and “government intervention is not the best solution to matters of the heart.”

As has also been reported in several other places (you can listen to the actual unedited interview that ignited the whole discussion by clicking here) Pittenger expressed the concern that laws barring discrimination in employment against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals would interfere with the “autonomy” that businesses ought to have to make hiring and firing decisions without government interference.

The response to Pittenger’s comments has been strongly negative – at least in polite circles. Indeed, the congressman has received so much unfavorable publicity – from a disapproving editorial in his hometown newspaper to the spectacle of petitions of protest containing 30,000 signatures being delivered to his office – that he attempted a kind of strategic retreat on the issue last week. WSOC TV in Charlotte reported that: “The congressman’s office insists he never made the divisive statement. They said Pittenger told a blogger he does not support the employment non-discrimination act and the blogger ran with it.”

A debate over fundamentals

Whether or not Pittenger gets away with his attempt to back down from his own recorded remarks and paper over the hate and ignorance to which they give voice will be interesting to see, but for now, sadly, there are plenty of people – especially in not-so-polite venues – who are happy to take up his mantle. This fact was brought home to me during last Friday’s show by both the host and some anonymous callers who alternated between two basic arguments – each of which deserves to be refuted.

Argument #1 – which was espoused by a couple of the more overtly hostile callers – is what one might characterize as the direct and familiar “pretend gays aren’t there” approach. In this narrative, one’s sexual orientation or identity is a “lifestyle choice” that should be kept to oneself and anti-discrimination laws are nothing better than an attempt to secure “special privileges” by people who revel in being victims.

Central to this argument is the contention that anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace simply doesn’t exist (or is extremely rare) and that it would be impossible to prove and police anyway. When I related the story of a lesbian professional in RTP who found herself afraid to display a photo of her family on her desk at work for fear of retribution, one caller described the scenario as imaginary and demanded that I produce statistics to back up my contention that such situations are commonplace.

Lacking them at my fingertips at the time, I offer them now.

Last year, in a brief explaining the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) experts at the Center for American Progress reported that:

LGBT employees continue to face widespread discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Specifically, 8 percent to 17 percent of LGB workers report being passed over for a job or being fired because of their sexual orientation; 10 percent to 28 percent received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were LGB; and 7 percent to 41 percent of LGB workers encountered harassment, abuse, or antigay vandalism on the job. Rates of discrimination are especially high among people of color who identify as LGBT.

Transgender workers in particular experience high rates of employment discrimination. An astonishing 90 percent of transgender people report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job or report having taken action such as hiding who they really are to avoid it. As with LGB employees, rates of employment discrimination are especially pronounced among transgender people of color.

In other words, the notion that workplace discrimination against LGBT people is an imaginary problem is absurd. Those who try to deny it or imagine it away are simply kidding themselves. Those of us who have even a modicum of experience in the real world know the truth instinctively.

Argument #2 – which was espoused by the host and some other callers – is a variant on Pittenger’s argument and is, in some ways, the more pernicious and worrisome of the two. According to this take, workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals is real and objectionable, but the government has no business in getting involved. Rather, it would be better if consumers boycotted businesses that engage in discrimination and bring the pressures of “the market” to bear in order to effect change.

The obvious response to this argument – and what makes the sincerity of its proponents so worrisome, of course – is the fact that the same thing could be said (and, indeed, was said 50 years ago) about the protections against racial discrimination contained in the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The plain and hard truth is that public opinion and boycotts simply don’t and won’t work when it comes to real life discrimination in many, many situations. That’s one of the key points of civil rights laws – to step in when and where the unfettered market isn’t working.

And if this is going to be our approach – that bigoted and discriminatory behavior which selects certain classes of people for substandard treatment is simply something that should be left to, in effect, public opinion – then the modern American right wing really is bent on taking the country in a frightening direction.

A broader debate?

And, indeed, this is what is ultimately most worrisome about the claims of those who would deny the need for legislation like ENDA based on a supposed faith in “market forces” to curb things like workplace discrimination. Not only does such an argument slap a cloak of legitimacy on a position that, in effect, undergirds hate and intolerance, it also serves to further undermine two simple concepts that ought to have been settled long ago: a) that citizens in a democracy can establish basic rules of fair treatment for all people, and b) that the “market’ serves the people, rather than the other way around.

Let’s hope Americans keep these truths in mind during the months ahead and quickly consign the narrow and destructive views of the Robert Pittenegers of the world to the dustbin of history where they belong.

– See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/09/30/understanding-robert-pittengers-freedoms-and-autonomy/#sthash.SsCsbQdl.dpuf

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