An imperfect bill is better than none
The House has approved legislation to protect gays and lesbians from job discrimination.
A BILL approved by the U.S. House draws federal law closer into alignment with Hawaii's progressive civil rights statutes, forbidding discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the workplace.
The Senate, led by Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy, will likely move similar legislation to expand nationwide the protection that 20 states have put in place. President Bush, who threatened to veto previous bills and isn't one to change course, should let the measure pass without his signature if fairness and equality are principles he values.
For nearly 33 years, advocates have sought a federal shield to ensure people aren't denied job opportunities and pay because of sexual orientation, just as laws bar discrimination because of religion, race, pregnancy, ethnicity, sex, age and disability.
To win Republican approval, House Democrats granted exemptions for religion-based employers and left out language about transsexual and transgender persons. However, the legislation includes prohibitions against "perceived sexual orientation," which affords some protection.
The concessions didn't sit well with some gay and lesbian groups, but as with previous civil rights measures, gains are made by piece by piece, and without accommodations, the bill would have been abandoned. As it stood, only 35 Republicans approved the bill.
Many of the 25 Democrats voting against it wanted sexual identity language left in. Hawaii Rep. Mazie Hirono, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said it was "unfortunate that political realities" made that inclusion difficult, but acknowledged it was prudent to leave that battle for another day.
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