This afternoon I had the opportunity to ask Republican senatorial candidate Gabriel Gomez his views on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA; HR 1397 / S 811), which is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate in July.
ENDA would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people against discrimination in the workplace. Federal law already prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, gender and disability. Rep. Markey is a co-sponsor of ENDA and a longtime, active supporter of equal rights for LGBT people.
Massachusetts already has LGBT anti-discrimination laws on the books that are more comprehensive than ENDA, so supporting ENDA should be a straightforward choice for a senator representing Massachusetts. However, Mr. Gomez’s campaign page remains vague about his views on LGBT issues beyond marriage equality, so I was happy to have the opportunity to ask him the question directly.
As he has done previously when presented with a question about LGBT civil equality, Mr. Gomez began by stating his opposition to discrimination of any kind. He then went on to talk about a friend and capable cadet discharged from the Naval Academy for being gay, something Mr. Gomez clearly found regrettable. In conclusion, he stated that “I don’t think there should be any kind of discrimination anywhere under any kind of means, whether it’s race, gender, religion or political belief”.
The general impression I was left with is that Mr. Gomez does indeed abhor discrimination. However, he still leaves me reading the tea leaves as to whether he would translate his personal views into decisive legislative action. Not only did he refrain from speaking to the ENDA bill specifically, but he never used any of the vocabulary key to it: sexual orientation, gender identity, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.
In short, I found his answer to be positive in tone but frustratingly vague.
Here is the transcript of my question and his response:
Question: Another bill that we’re expecting a vote on in July is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers against workplace discrimination. I’m wondering what your feelings on that bill, if it’s something that you would support.
Gomez: First I’ll just step back for a second and say that I don’t believe in any kind of discrimination. I think that if two people are in love, they should be able to get married.
Some people have already heard this before, but when I was at the Naval Academy, fifty days before I graduated one of my best friends — he was a classmate of mine — had the third-highest leadership position. He was ranked third in our class. We had 1,031 in our class, so he was basically better than everybody in our class, 99.7 percent of us.
He got called into the commandant’s office and was asked if he was gay. He honored the honor code that you can’t lie, steal or cheat or tolerate those who do, and he said “yes”. He was kicked out two days later, didn’t get his diploma, didn’t get his commission, had to pay back part of his education.
I would have been proud to have served with this young man. He was a good friend of mine, and is still a very friend — a big supporter right now. Anywhere, anywhere, anyhow, anyplace.
He had proven himself more capable than any of us, quite frankly, at that time, and I don’t think there should be any kind of discrimination anywhere under any kind of means, whether it’s race, gender, religion or political belief.
Full disclosure: I am an Ed Markey supporter. However, since I believe that civil equality for LGBT people should be a non-partisan issue, I am delighted to give recognition to any candidate who supports it, regardless of party. Because of this I try to listen with an open mind to all candidates and report their views fairly. I’m sure readers will not hesitate to let me know if they think I’m off the mark by calling Mr. Gomez’s comments “frustratingly vague”.