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Discrimination: Gender

Last Updated:2014-Feb-20
Principal Writer:Barry Shatzman

Issue Sections

Understanding The Issue
Issue Status
What You Can Do

Reported News

Discrimination: Gender

Related Bills

Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

2013 (S-815)

Defense of Marriage Act

1996 (HR-3396)

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

1993 (HR-1308)

Civil Rights Act of 1964

1968 (HR-2516)

Civil Rights Act of 1964

1964 (HR-7152)

Related Court Cases

(2015) Obergefell v. Hodges
(2014) Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
(2013) U.S. v. Windsor
(2003) Lawrence v. Texas
(1988) Bowers v. Hardwick


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What do we mean by discrimination?

Discrimination can be a complex issue due the various criteria people use to consider public policies - from righting past wrongs to "community standards" to weighing one person's personal beliefs against another's.

To address this in a simple way, we differentiate between what a person is and the things a person does. While we have control over the things we do, we have no control over aspects that make us up, for example...

o Where we were born and the tone of our skin
o Our gender
o Who we are attracted to sexually and emotionally
o Our abilities

There is another factor - our beliefs about a deity and how we practice those beliefs. Regardless of whether we consider our particular beliefs to be unchangeable or a choice, the Constitution's first amendment ensures that...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

We base our discussions on the principle that discrimination on any of those factors - whether for employment, housing, education, business, recreation, or law enforcement - is unacceptable in the society we share. When religion is involved - and one person's beliefs conflict with another person's ability to live their life the way they choose - the situation becomes more complex.

But regardless of the cause of the discrimination, it is up to our elected representatives and the courts to come up with reasonable solutions.

What is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act about?

There is no federal law preventing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Fewer than half of the country's 50 states have such a law. In states without such a law, a company legally can deny you a job solely on those factors.

In 2013, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would have outlawed such discrimination nationwide. However, the House of Representatives refused to consider it, and it died when the term of the 113th Congress ended.

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