The debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and the refusal of House Democrats to demand that transgender people be included in the legislation, is symbolic of the failure of mainstream politicians (Republicans and Democrats) to stand up for equal rights for all. It's similar to their unprincipled approach to marriage. Even those few who say they support marriage equality generally refuse to support making polyamorist marriages (between three or more people) legal.
But GLBT rights advocates should save their ammunition on ENDA for more important fights. The bill itself is well-intentioned, but wrong. Government should not discriminate in hiring because it is funded by, and claims to represent, all of us, but private employers should be legally free to discriminate. Say you want to open a gay bar, or a transgender health clinic. Shouldn't you be free to discriminate by hiring mostly or all gay or transgender employees, since they will tend to know more about the community you want to serve, and be able to make your customers and clients feel more comfortable? Libertarians say yes. It's true that some employers, given the choice, will unfairly discriminate against GLBT people. But at least then we will know who our friends are. Listen to minorities who complain about hidden racism today and say they would rather have bigotry out in the open. If an employer is bigoted against me, I would prefer to know it and not go to work for them in the first place, rather than have a law that forces them to hire me against their will so that I could inadvertently end up working for a company I would rather encourage people to have nothing to do with.
Just as with constitutionally-protected freedom of speech, which gives anti-gay bigots the right to use words we find deeply hurtful but also gives us the right to do things they find deeply offensive, like have public Easter celebrations with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, freedom of association means legally tolerating behavior and choices that we find offensive, in order that our own rights and freedoms will also be protected. True tolerance in a free society means respecting the legal right to private choices that we disagree with, in public and in the marketplace.
Vice Chair, Libertarian Party of San Francisco
3531 16th Street,
San Francisco, CA 94114