Responding to a question from a reporter on Thursday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) revealed that he is against making it illegal for employers for fire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation. When asked by ThinkProgress' Scott Keyes while attending the opening of the Faith and Freedom Forum whether he supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit workplace discrimination against LGBT people across the country, Rubio responded that although he had not read the bill, he opposes "any special protections based on orientation."
Rubio is a rising star in the Republican Party and a top prospect for the party in the 2016 presidential race. Yet Rubio's stance on same-sex marriage and LGBT equality puts him at odds with the growing support for affording LGBT members of society the same rights and protections as other Americans.
Responding to Keyes' question, Rubio said, "I haven’t read the legislation. By and large I think all Americans should be protected but I’m not for any special protections based on orientation." Keyes then asked, "What about on race or gender?" To which Rubio responded, "Well that’s established law," the implication being that while it is no longer okay to discriminate on the basis of race or gender, it is still okay to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.
Video credit: ThinkProgress
Just hours earlier, Rubio said in an interview on the Andrea Tantaros Show that he would withdraw his support for the immigration reform bill he co-authored if it "has something in it that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill. I’m done." He went on to say, "I'm off it, and I've said that repeatedly. I don't think that's going to happen and it shouldn't happen. This is already a difficult enough issue as it is." In the past, Rubio has also expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage and to repealing the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT) policy prohibiting openly gay soliders from serving in the U.S. military.
The point of ENDA, which has been introduced to Congress for the first time since 2007, is not to give special rights or privileges to LGBT members of society, but simply to make discrimination against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity illegal. As Keyes and Adam Peck point out, "workplace discrimination is an all-too-frequent reality for LGBT individuals. Two out of every five openly lesbian, gay, or bisexual employees have reported discrimination at their jobs. Among transgender workers, that figure rises to nine out of 10." At the moment 29 states have no employment laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Image credit: LGBT Map
Things like repealing DADT, passing ENDA, supporting same-sex marriage, and giving same-sex couples equal immigration rights, are not about giving LGBT people special treatment. They would all be unnecessary if everybody were truly treated equally, but they are not. LGBT members of society are routinely discriminated against and that is why positive action is needed to address this. Shame on you, Mr. Rubio.