Late last week, Rep. John Kline, chair of the House Committee on Education and The Workforce, blocked a bill that would have added strong LGBT nondiscrimination protections to federal law.
Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado, offered the Equality Act on Wednesday as an amendment to the Protecting Local Business Act. The Equality Act is a broad LGBT nondiscrimination bill introduced earlier this year. The Protecting Local Business Act is a Republican-backed bill that would overturn a National Labor Relations Board decision over joint employers and rights for workers, particularly in contracted relationships. It is being opposed by labor unions.
Rep. David Roe, a Republican from Tennessee, questioned the germaneness of the Equality Act — a bill that would ban discrimination in employment — to a bill dealing with labor relations. Rep. Kline agreed by ruling in favor of Roe’s assertion, effectively tabling the amendment.
In a statement to the Washington Blade, Polis criticized the ruling:
“The committee’s stated goals in moving the so-called ‘Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act’ were to grow our economy and create jobs,” Polis said. “Unfortunately, that bill wouldn’t do either of those things, so my amendment attempted to substitute it for one that would. Discrimination is an economic inefficiency, and it is in our economy’s best interest that we work to put a stop to it. And beyond that, the Equality Act addresses several problems that our committee should be concerned with but has sadly neglected, such as the problem that LGBT students are still bullied in schools throughout the country, and the problem that medical professionals can still refuse to treat LGBT families. I take extreme exception to the idea that equality for LGBT Americans is somehow non-germane to the work our committee should be doing.”
Kline, who is retiring in 2016, has been a staunch opponent of rights for LGBT workers and students.
His committee blocked Student Non-Discrimination Act, asked the Labor Department to withdraw an LGBT nondiscrimination policy, and voted against LGBT non-discrimination in HUD contracts.
Here’s video of the exchange in committee and Kline’s ruling against the Equality Act: