Govexec.com reported that the Clarification of the Federal Employment Protections Act (HR 3128) passed by a unanimous voice vote in the House Government Reform Committee. The measure is sponsored by the panel’s ranking member, Representative Henry Waxman (D-California) (See Waxman Unveils Federal Worker Sexual Orientation Protection ).
“I’m glad this bill to clarify protections for hard-working federal employees is moving forward,” Waxman said, according to the Govexec.com report. “I hope the Republican leadership will bring the bill to the floor quickly and send a clear message to the Bush Administration that the decision to narrowly interpret the law to discriminate based on sexual orientation is wrong and unacceptable.”
The legislation, proposed in June 2005, arose after Senate testimony by Special Counsel Scott Bloch, who said that the law limits the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) from protecting gay employees from sexual orientation discrimination in every situation. As OSC chief, Bloch presides over independent investigations and prosecutions of merit system violations in federal agencies.
If the Waxman measure passes both houses of Congress and is signed by President Bush, it would add sexual orientation to the list of prohibited forms of discrimination against employees or potential employees that includes gender, race, national origin, handicaps, age, political affiliation and marital status.
“This measure would halt the rollback of a law preventing anti-gay discrimination that has existed for three decades,” Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, DC-based gay and lesbian organization, told Govexec.com. “Today’s vote was an important step toward restoring these critical protections.”
The bill has 22 Democratic and four Republican co-sponsors.