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There’s a saying I picked up once during an encounter with an insolent and rather unappealing child. “I can do what I can do,” she said to me, stomping her little foot.
This is exactly what I picture Scott Bloch, who manages the Office of Special Counsel, saying when it comes to his refusal to protect LGBT federal workers from discrimination.
Bloch is refusing to investigate claims of sexual orientation-based bias against federal workers, which is a problem considering it’s his job.
You see, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 ensured for over two decades that federal workers are protected from anti-gay discrimination.
That is, until Bloch decided it didn’t.
Besides removing references to sexual orientation from the office’s Web site and other literature, when he was questioned by Michigan’s U.S. Senator Carl Levin during a May appearance before a Senate panel he told Levin that he lacks the legal authority to enforce the anti-discrimination policy, a policy that Bush himself said he supports.
“Longstanding federal policy prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation,” the White House said in April 2004. “President Bush expects federal agencies to enforce this policy and to ensure that all federal employees are protected from unfair discrimination at work.”
But then, Bush says a lot of things. And when your boss is telling you to (wink-wink) enforce a law that he (wink-wink) supports, you’re probably not going to make it your top priority. So even though gay federal workers have been protected for 27 years, Bloch saw nothing unseemly about washing his hands of the protections.
The problem is that federal civil rights laws, just like Michigan’s, ban employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability and political affiliation, but not sexual orientation. What needs to happen is that sexual orientation and gender identity need to be added to the federal and state civil rights laws.
In the meantime, a bipartisan bill introduced on June 30 would clarify the Civil Service Reform Act, explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under the act.
LGBT organizations support the bill, but have mixed feelings. “We’re not happy about it,” said Human Rights Campaign’s David M. Smith. “Congress should be focusing on enacting protections for all [LGBT] employees, not renovating a law that’s in perfectly good shape already.”
Until that happens, you can do what you can do by contacting your legislators and asking them to support the bill. You can find your reps at http://www.vote-smart.org or by calling the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.