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House Members looking for easy votes following a public and exhausting health care battle are facing a rude awakening. Democrats especially have been running ragged after spending much political capital on health care reform and are hoping for a softball legislative schedule so they can focus on their top priority re-election. A bill under consideration in the Education and Labor Committee, however, will prove to make these next few weeks anything but easy.
The committee is sitting on a time bomb: namely, H.R. 3017, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Set to go off as early as Wednesday when it could head to a full committee markup, the bill aims to force states to broaden their protection of minority status individuals. Among other things, ENDA will make gender identity a protected minority, and states, local governments and businesses with more than 15 employees will be forced to recognize it as such.
Most importantly, every public school in America will not be able to discriminate in hiring transgender teachers, and it will be illegal to reassign them from the classroom.
Written by Chai Feldblum, an Obama recess appointee to the body that will enforce ENDA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the law will allow for all kinds of unwanted, though perhaps not unintended, consequences. Under ENDA, state and local governments will be forced to recognize gender identity as a protected minority status. Section 3 of the bill defines the status as the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics or an individual, with or without regard to the individuals designated sex at birth. Cross-dressers and those who have had surgical operations to alter their gender would then share the same protections as minorities. Expanding the scope of traditionally protected minorities to these groups will engender all sorts of problems.
Take the case of a New York teacher undergoing a surgical transition to become female in 2006. Students of New Yorks Batavia High School were forced to remain in the class during the transition, and parents were refused the right to opt their children out of his class. The teacher claimed protection under New Yorks disability laws and therefore had to be accommodated by the school district. Students were told they had 30 days to learn how to properly address him or face punishment.
In 2008, students and parents were shocked to learn that a female music teacher at Californias Foxboro Elementary School underwent surgery to become a man. Parents were not informed about the sex change in advance so they could remove their children from her class. In addition, the kids were required to refer to her as Mister. The school district refused to notify parents about this teachers sex change because of privacy laws that is, laws under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.