Thank you for your gracious introduction. And I want to thank all the members of the press for joining us today for this important press conference on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 1994.
Senator Chaffe; Senator Kennedy; Representatives Edwards, Frank, Studds, and Morella; Distinguished Guests; members of the press. Today I am proud to join in supporting this much-needed legislation, which would provide some long-overdue protection to American workers from the injustice of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
I support this legislation because lesbian and gay people are a permanent part of the American workforce, who currently have no protection from the arbitrary abuse of their rights on the job. For too long, our nation has tolerated the insidious form of discrimination against this group of Americans, who have worked as hard as any other group, paid their taxes like everyone else and yet have been denied equal protection under the law.
By including victims of discrimination based on sexual orientation, this bill would do much to rectify this injustice in the workplaces of America. I am much encouraged that a recent Newsweek opinion poll found that 74 percent of the respondents favored protecting gay and lesbian people from job discrimination, and I am proud to stand with this overwhelming majority of Americans who recognize the justice of this cause.
This bill would grant the same rights to victims of discrimination based on sexual orientation that are extended to victims of racial, gender and religious discrimination and those who have been unfairly treated in the workplace because of their age, ethnicity or disability. The bill provides no preferential treatment or special rights that have been denied these groups.
I support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 1994 because I believe that freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. My husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” On another occasion he said, “I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible.” Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.
So I see this bill as a step forward for freedom and human rights in our country and a logical extension of the Bill of Rights and the civil rights reforms of the 1950s and ‘60s.
The great promise of American democracy is that no group of people will be forced to suffer discrimination and injustice. I believe that this legislation will provide protection to a large group of working people who have suffered persecution and discrimination for many years. To this endeavor, I pledge my wholehearted support.