Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ENDA, the role of the federal government, and Kerry Roberts

In light of the Obama administration's recent directives on barring discrimination against federal employees based on gender identity (sexual orientation is already covered) and recent talk that there may be movement on Don't Ask Don't Tell, I asked the question on Twitter, "...will that give them enough moral authority to move on ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act]? I followed that with: "In other words, does fedgov need to be able to say, 'We've put our own house in order before moving into the private sector?'"

Much to my surprise, 6th District congressional candidate Kerry Roberts responded:

RT @tnequality Does fedgov need to be able to say, "We've put own house in order b4 moving n2 private sector?" // Fed should never b there.

I'm not wild about the content of the response, but I'll get to that in a minute. First, I should note that his position on ENDA won't differ much from current 6th District Congressman Bart Gordon's, although we may get the chance to find out otherwise if the House votes on ENDA in March. Second, I have to commend Mr. Roberts for responding, especially since I wasn't directing the question at him in particular. It's a refreshing sign of engagement.

Now for the substance of the response. I understand the anti-government perspective and I know that it's the kind of talking point that plays well with a huge chunk of his voters. But I followed up with questions that in all fairness he hasn't had time to answer. I asked whether he believes the federal government has a role to play in protecting people from racial and religious discrimination in the workplace. To the first, the conservative line used to be "No quotas." But getting beyond that and the now almost unreflective anti-government response, what's a conservative to say in such a situation? Would Roberts really say he favors dismantling existing employment protections? And even if he said he did, would he really act on those convictions?

I doubt it. But I hope I find out. And considering he was willing to reach out in the first place, who knows? I just might.

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