Statement on Employment Non-Discrimination Act

i thank the chairman of the committee, mr. miller, for yielding time. america was regaled by the TimeCode: 15:58:51.5 president of france and he talked about america's values and he said that's why the world loves america because of its values. TimeCode: 15:59:01.4 now whether all the world loves america's actions all the time is another question. but they know that one of our cardinal values was that we believe that all men and women are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain TimeCode: 15:59:21.1 unalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. no one in america believes you can pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without the opportunity to have employment. TimeCode: 15:59:36.8 in america, we have discriminated historically against various groups of people. some because of the color of their skin, some because of their gender, some because of TimeCode: 15:59:52.5 their religion, some because of their ethnic origin. there have been all sorts of reasons throughout our history that we have discriminated against people. mad amount speaker, for more than 200 years, our great nation TimeCode: 16:00:07.5 has fought for and advanced the timeless values and ideals eels that are embody yesterday in our constitution, fairness, justice and equality under law. and today through this bipartisan legislation, the TimeCode: 16:00:25.7 employment nondiscrimination act, we again take a momentous step in breaking down centuries of rank gin justice, prejudice and unjustified discrimination TimeCode: 16:00:40.4 against gay and lesbian americans. could be gays and lesbians, could be african americans, could be catholics, bap activities like me. we have all been discriminated TimeCode: 16:00:55.4 against. could be a jew. could be anybody. what this country really believes is we should not discriminate against anybody. it so happens this bill TimeCode: 16:01:11.9 describes one somebody, but it really refers to everybody. and it really is saying in this just nation we believe in equal opportunity. TimeCode: 16:01:29.9 when the congress passed the civil rights act of 1964 it prohibited employment discrimination based on race and gender, discrimination that often was open and far too often regarded as acceptable. TimeCode: 16:01:46.5 frankly my colleagues, as we sit here in this chamber, hopefully all 435 of us believe that if we had lived in another time a half century ago or perhaps a century ago we would TimeCode: 16:01:59.2 have even then thought it was wrong to discriminate against somebody because of the color of their skin. but we know that too many of our predecessors voted to allow and to further discrimination TimeCode: 16:02:17.0 against people because of their color. i presume that some of those looked back after their service in this body, maybe 10 or 20 years later and said, i am historically sorry that i cast TimeCode: 16:02:34.8 that discriminatory vote. i hope that none of my colleagues find themselves in that place today or tomorrow and tomorrow or 10 years from now. we've expanded the scope of the TimeCode: 16:02:50.9 laws protection to prohibit employment discrimination based on religion, color, national origin, and disability. today, through this historic rights legislation, we will add sexual orientation as a TimeCode: 16:03:10.1 protected class, because even in 2007 there is little doubt that gay and lesbian americans are too often the object of discrimination, not because of their actions but because who they are. TimeCode: 16:03:27.9 america believes that's wrong. that's what president sarkozy was saying today. madam speaker, let us be clear. this legislation is consistent with our values, our ideals, and america's long history of TimeCode: 16:03:45.4 social progress. and thus the question before us today is not only whether we will choose to do the right thing and pass this bill but whether we will choose to stand on the right side of history. saying to some of our fellow TimeCode: 16:04:02.9 citizens, yes, you may be different than we are but you are entitled by our constitution and by our god and by our values to equal treatment under law. TimeCode: 16:04:20.1 this legislation, in fact, is the logical extension of the law in 20 states that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. and i should note that the federal government, we've taken that action, all the people who TimeCode: 16:04:37.5 work for us, we bar discrimination against them based upon sexual orientation. madam speaker, as the lead house sponsor of the landmark americans with disabilities act, i harbor no illusions that TimeCode: 16:04:53.1 this legislation will topple centuries of prejudice overnight or we can legislate that prejudice out of existence. that's probably not possible. but what we can do, what we ought to in fairness do this TimeCode: 16:05:09.3 day is say that it is not lawful in the united states to have that prejudice prevent the pursuit of happiness and the TimeCode: 16:05:26.1 enjoyment of opportunities offered by this great, fair and just nation. i urge my colleagues to stand with great pride to vote TimeCode: 16:05:41.6 against discrimination in this great just land we call america.