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Congress Moves To Protect Gay Federal Workers


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Congress Moves To Protect Gay Federal Workers

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: September 15, 2005 7:00 pm ET

(Washington) Congress is moving forward on legislation to ensure LGBT federal workers are protected from discrimination on the job.

The House Government Reform Committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would force the Office of Special Counsel to obey an executive order that traditionally has been used to protect gays in the civil service

The Office of the Special Counsel is responsible for investigating allegations of discrimination in the federal government.

Since his appointment by President Bush, Scott Bloch the director of the agency has refused to investigate claims from LGBT workers.

Appearing in May before the the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on oversight of government management, the federal workforce and the District of Columbia, Bloch said that his interpretation of the executive order, signed during the Clinton presidency, cannot be used to protect gay workers because it does not specifically name LGBT workers. (story)

"It is not something I can prosecute in my agency," Bloch told the committee. "I am limited by the enforcement statutes that you give me."

At that point Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) asked if Bloch would recommend Congress amend the law to add sexual orientation to the protections for federal employees. Bloch declined to take a position saying that it was a matter for Congress not him to comment on.

The legislation approved Thursday in committee was the result of that encounter.

"Members of Congress are fighting for more than 2 million federal workers while a Bush appointee tries to chisel away at protections," said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

"This measure would halt the rollback of a law preventing anti-gay discrimination that has existed for three decades."

Bloch has been under fire for more than year for stonewalling complaints of discrimination by LGBT federal workers.

In February 2004 he ordered references to sexual orientation removed from the Office of the Special Counsel website. (story) Since 1998, when President Bill Clinton issued an executive order prohibiting bias in the civil service, the OSC has taken that to include sexuality.

A month after the references disappeared from the OSC website Bloch said gay workers were no longer protected. (story)

After intense pressure from Federal Globe, an organization for gay and lesbian workers, and from Democrats on The Hill, the White House said it would honor an Executive Order signed by President Clinton

But, last September, with Bloch's approval, several union contracts negotiated with various branches of the government removed the list of categories that are protected replacing them with the more nebulous phrase "any class protected by law." (story)

"From national park rangers to emergency personnel, federal employees fill important roles in American society. The last thing they should have to worry about is a bureaucrat in Washington rolling back their employment protections," Solmonese said.

©365Gay.com 2005


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