A few arguments that have been offered against ENDA
The bill treats a group of people as special and deserving of protected status based on certain behaviors rather than an immutable trait. Inherent in this argument is the controversy over whether sexual orientation is acquired or chosen versus that which is inborn.
Considering the social science research
What is sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation is a component of sexuality that is characterized by enduring emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attractions to individuals of a particular gender. Thus, sexual orientation refers to more than just certain behaviors. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors. Some people may engage in sexual behaviors with persons of the same gender but not identify themselves as gay. On the other hand, homosexual intimate relationships, like their heterosexual counterparts, do not always include sexually overt behavior.
Three sexual orientations are commonly recognized: homosexual, attraction to individuals of one's own gender; heterosexual, attraction to individuals of the opposite gender; and bisexual, attractions to individuals of both genders.
Is sexual orientation a choice?
No. The available studies indicate that same-sex attractions generally emerge by early or mid-adolescence without any prior sexual experience. And some people report trying very hard over many years to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual with no success. For these reasons, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation for most people to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.
What causes sexual orientation?
Although much research has been conducted no conclusive theory on the development of sexual orientation exists at this time. Scientists do not know how sexual orientation develops for homosexuals just as they do not know how sexual orientation develops for heterosexuals. Theorists have proposed differing sources for sexual orientation, including biological, socio-cultural and developmental factors, or some combination of these.
In sum, the research available suggests that conceptualizing and defining sexual orientation simply as the expression of certain behaviors and a personal choice is inaccurate, therefore calling into question policy decisions based on these assumptions.
The bill forces people to accept behavior they find objectionable.
Throughout history prejudice towards marginalized groups or classes of people have been framed similarly. One of the reasons negative stereotypes continue to exist is that stigmatized groups are frequently depicted by detractors as sexually predatory and threatening and likely to molest those most vulnerable among society's general population, such as women and children. At different points in our history we have seen certain groups, such as Jews and African Americans, targeted with these stereotypes. Within this context, gay men and lesbians have been characterized by some as exhibiting behavior that is dangerous to children.
To further examine this characterization we outline the available research on whether homosexuals are likely to molest children, have a deleterious impact on children, and try to recruit children to be gay.
Are lesbians and gay men child molesters?
There is no evidence that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children. The perpetrators of child sexual abuse or assault are overwhelmingly adult heterosexual males. In one study, 88 percent of the adult perpetrators were identified as heterosexual whereas less than one percent were identified as possibly homosexual. In addition, three-quarters (75 percent) of these heterosexual male perpetrators were or had been in a close relationship with the child's mother, grandmother, or another close relative. This research is consistent with other studies that indicate that individuals who commit child sexual assault or abuse are rarely homosexually identified persons.
Do gay role models have a deleterious impact on children?
The research rebuts assumptions that having a gay parent or role model is harmful to the child. Even in relationships as fundamental as that between a parent and child there is no evidence to suggest that children are negatively effected by the parents' sexual orientation. When compared to children of heterosexual parents children of gay men or lesbians are no different in their intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, popularity with friends, development of sex role identity and development of sexual orientation. Therefore, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by gay and lesbian parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children's psychosocial growth.
Do gay role models recruit children to be gay?
The presence of a gay role model does not encourage otherwise heterosexual children to adopt a homosexual orientation. Even in relationships as fundamental as that between a parent and child there is no evidence to suggest that children of gay fathers and lesbian mothers are more likely to be homosexual. The data show no elevated rate of homosexuality among adult children of lesbian and gay parents.
In sum, the research shows that the characterization of homosexuals as exhibiting behaviors that are a threat to children is inaccurate, therefore calling into question policy decisions based on this belief.
A few arguments that have been offered in favor of ENDA
It is a fundamental value in the U.S. that all working people have a right to be judged by the quality of their work performance and not by completely unrelated factors. Are there characteristics unique to gay men, lesbians and bisexuals that justifies work place discrimination? A common characterization of homosexuals is that they are psychologically deviant or abnormal.
Considering the social science research
Are lesbians and gay men psychologically abnormal which would justify work place discrimination?
No. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are as psychologically healthy as their heterosexual counterparts. Much research has compared lesbians and gay men to heterosexuals with the consistent finding that both groups score in the normal range on psychological tests. As the result of these findings the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the official manual that lists all psychiatric disorders in 1973. Two years later the American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting this position. Both organizations state that "homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgement, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities".
Does being gay or lesbian affect a person's work?
The available research examining this question shows that the way sexual orientation does enter the work place is through the discrimination and hostility that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals often face which affects their actual or perceived job security and safety (for research on actual discrimination refer to the next section). For example, research shows that many gay men and lesbians feel great fear and anxiety about possible firing or harassment if their sexual orientation were disclosed at their work place.
In sum, the characterization of homosexuals as psychologically abnormal is inaccurate, therefore calling into question policy decisions based on this belief.
Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation violates the central principle of fairness.
The principle of fairness for lesbian and gay individuals in the work place is seriously compromised due to the employment discrimination they experience, including being denied a job, fired, denied promotion or privileges, and harassment.
According to a current study, 14 percent of respondents from a community sample of more than 2000 gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals reported having experienced work place discrimination in the last year.
A synopsis of ten different community based surveys on employment discrimination documented between 16-44 percent (depending upon geographic region and type of discrimination) of people surveyed had experienced employment discrimination based on sexual orientation at some point in their careers.
Some employers openly admit they would discriminate against a homosexual employee. A survey of 191 employers revealed that 18 percent would fire, 27 percent would refuse to hire, and 26 percent would refuse to promote a person perceived to be gay.
Employment discrimination may also be evident in earnings. According to research from a national random sample of U.S. adults, gay and bisexual men earned 27 percent less than their equivalent heterosexual male counterparts with the same education, experience, occupation, and region of residence.
In sum, research shows that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is far from uncommon, suggesting a great need for policies such as ENDA to protect against such work place discrimination.
Ending employment discrimination is good social and business policy.
If discrimination based on sexual orientation were eliminated in the work place all employees may benefit psychologically. It is important to remember that anyone, regardless of their actual sexual orientation, may be the target of anti-gay sentiment and may experience work place discrimination simply based on their perceived sexual orientation. This puts everyone at risk and thus ENDA would be beneficial for all employees.
The psychological literature concludes that people who accept and integrate their sexual orientation are psychologically better adjusted than those who do not. In order to promote psychological well-being among workers, individuals should have the opportunity to disclose who they are without the threat of negative ramifications.
Anti-gay prejudice and discrimination has adverse psychological effects on those who are targeted. Research shows that the experience of discrimination based on sexual orientation is associated with increased psychological distress. As perhaps an extreme but not uncommon expression of anti-gay sentiment, violence against lesbians and gay men has negative psychological ramifications. Much research has informed us that people suffer psychologically after being victims of criminal victimization. A current research study shows those targeted for a crime specifically for being gay or lesbian suffer even more. Individuals who were victims of anti-gay biased crimes suffered more severe psychological damage than persons who were victims of crimes not based on sexual orientation. Additionally, it took people who were victims of biased crimes longer to recover than those who were the victims of non-biased crimes. Discrimination, in it's various manifestations, has a psychological toll.
Research has consistently found that heterosexuals who have contact with homosexuals have more positive attitudes towards homosexuals as a group. This suggests that the presence of gay co-workers does not undermine the morale of and relationships between employees but rather may strengthen worker rapport.
In sum, allowing an atmosphere of intolerance based on sexual orientation in the work place is not only detrimental for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals but for heterosexuals and employee relations. Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation legitimizes other forms of prejudice and discrimination, including anti-gay hate crimes. ENDA is necessary for ending work place discrimination.
Partial list of references
Badgett, M.V.L. (1995). The wage effects of sexual orientation discrimination. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 48(4), 726-739.
Badgett, M.V.L, Donnelly, C., & Kibbe, J. (1992). Pervasive Patterns of Discrimination against Lesbians and Gay Men: Evidence from Surveys Across the United States. Washington, DC: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Bailey, J.M., Bobrow, D., Wolfe, M., & Mikach, S. (1995). Sexual orientation of adult sons of gay fathers. Developmental Psychology, 31(1), 124-129.
Byne, W. & Parsons, B. (1993). Human sexual orientation: The biological theories repraised. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 228-239.
Cogan, J.C., Herek, G.M., & Gillis, J.R., (unpublished). Employment discrimination among a community sample (work in progress).
Flaks, D.K., Ficher, I., Masterpasqua, F., & Joseph, G. (1995). Lesbians choosing motherhood: A comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual parents and their children, Developmental Psychology, 31(1), 105-114.
Golombok, S., & Tasker, F. (1996). Do parents influence the sexual orientation of their children? Findings from a longitudinal study of lesbian families. Developmental Psychology, 32(1), 3-11.
Herek, G.M. & Capitanio, J.P. (1996). Some of my best friends: Intergroup contact, concealable stigma, and heterosexuals' attitudes towards gay men and lesbians.
Herek, G.M. (1995). Assessing heterosexuals' attitudes. In B. Green & G.M. Herek (Eds.), Lesbian and Gay Psychology: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications. Newberry Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Herek, G.M. & Glunt, E.K. (1993). Interpersonal contact and heterosexuals' attitudes toward gay men: Results from a national survey. The Journal of Sex Research, 30, 239-244.
Herek, G.M. (1989). Hate crimes against lesbians and gay men: Issues for research and policy, American Psychologist, 44 (6), 948-955.
Herek, G.M., & Berrill, K.T. (Eds.). Hate Crimes: Confronting Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men. Newberry Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Herek, G.M., & Glunt, E.K. (1988). An epidemic of stigma: Public reactions to AIDS, American Psychologist, 43, 886-891.
Herek, G.M., Gillis, J.R., Cogan, J.C., & Glunt, E.K. (1997). Hate crime victimization among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults: Prevalence, psychological correlates, and methodological issue. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 12, 195-215.
Jenny, C., Roesler, T.A., & Poyer, K.L. (1994). Are children at risk for sexual abuse by homosexuals? Pediatrics, 94(1), 41-44.
Levine, M.P. (1979). Employment discrimination against gay men. International Review of Modern Sociology, 9(5-7), 151-163.
Levine, M.P., & Leonard, R. (1984). Discrimination against lesbians in the work force, Signs, 9 (4), 700-710.
Patterson, C. (1995). Lesbian mothers, gay fathers, and their children. In A.R. D'Augelli and C. Patterson, Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities across the lifespan: psychological perspectives (pp. 262-290). New York: Oxford University Press.