In 2004, [Special Counsel Scott] Bloch was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)—the guys who protect federal employees from retaliations against whistle-blowing and other forms of discrimination. At that time, Title 5 was still interpreted to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
However, one month after taking office, Bloch ordered that all references to his office having jurisdiction over complaints by federal workers alleging sexual orientation discrimination be scrubbed from the special counsel's website and its official publications.
And scrubbed they were. After nearly 30 years of protecting federal workers from sexual orientation discrimination, it was suddenly not in the office's interest to do so.
People took notice, and the OPM felt the heat. In response, Bloch issued a legal review of the discrimination statute and found that the Title 5 provision only protected against discrimination on sexual conduct, not sexual orientation. He said sexual orientation would only be protected in another section of Title 5, which protects employees from discrimination against race, gender, religion or marital status. The problem is, that section doesn't mention sexual orientation. Clever.
Without saying that he was against protecting the rights of employees regardless of sexual orientation, Bloch threw his critics a curveball, suggesting an interpretation of the law that didn't recognize sexual orientation.
Bloch, you may recall, is under investigation for retaliating against employees who disagreed with him.
Anyways. There's an effort underway to change Title 5 so they don't have that loophole:
Sen. Daniel Akaka, who chairs the federal employees committee, is looking to hit that curveball out of the ballpark.
Last week, Akaka introduced the Clarification of Federal Employment Protections Act to counter any possible misinterpretations of the statute that protects federal employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bill seeks to clean up the language of the law and ensure that sexual orientation discrimination is something federal employees are protected against without question.
This would, though, only protect federal employees. Another bill, the Employment and Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), goes much further:
ENDA goes further, prohibiting public and private employers from using sexual orientation as the basis for employment decisions. In its current form, the bill also provides protection against gender identification discrimination, something the federal employee protection statute fails to mention. ENDA is cosponsored by 104 representatives including Hawai'i Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono.
Of course, there are people who are upset at any attempts to protect gay people from discrimination....