PFAW Urges Congress to take a stand against hatred and job discrimination


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People For the American Way urged members of Congress to take a stand against efforts by the Religious Right to turn some Americans into second class citizens. Congress this week is expected to vote on a proposal to amend the Executive Order (13087) that bans workplace discrimination by the federal government against gay and lesbian Americans. The Hefley Amendment, which is supported by House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, would effectively undo the order by prohibiting any expenditures to enforce it. “The Religious Right has declared open season on gay and lesbian Americans, and now they want the Congress to fire the first shot,” said People For the American Way President Carole Shields. “It’s time for Congress to take a stand against this divisive, destructive message and affirm that the Constitution applies to every American without exception.” The Religious Right has been involved in a long-running campaign to deny gay and lesbian Americans protection from discrimination. That campaign, which seeks to inflame and institutionalize hatred against gays and lesbians, is documented in a report released just last week by People For the American Way Foundation. The report, “Hostile Climate” describes 170 representative anti-gay incidents in 1997 and traces direct Religious Right involvement in nearly 40% of them. The Religious Right has long used hateful rhetoric against gays and lesbians as both a means to stir their supporters to action and as a powerful fundraising tool. The current effort to manipulate the Congress into legitimizing job discrimination against this group of Americans comes at a time when the Religious Right has been pouring vast resources into a nationwide ad campaign against gays and lesbians. Full-page ads in the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today this month are part of a long-term strategy to isolate gays and lesbians from the rest of Americans by promoting the message that homosexuality is an illness and that, unless they are “cured,” gay and lesbian Americans do not deserve the full rights and protections of our laws and Constitution. “The Religious right is using the same hateful message that has always been used to justify discrimination – that this group is different and should be treated differently. That message was wrong in the past and it’s wrong today,” Shields said. “Workplace decisions should be based on qualifications and performance, not on fears or hatred.”