When U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor’s decided last year that he would support the Employment Non-discrimination Act, which would prohibit employment discrimination against people on account of their sexual orientation, I tried to get a position on the issue from Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, Pryor’s opponent this year. He never responded, but Think Progress has obtained a letter written by Cotton that shows Cotton, effectively, supports legalized discrimination against gay people.
In the letter, Cotton says civil rights protection for gay people would encourage frivolous lawsuits and burden businesses because sexual orientation is “subjective.” From Think Progress, quoting a letter Cotton had sent in response to a question about his stance on ENDA:
The proposed legislation, unfortunately, could have the unintended consequence of making it harder for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, to find jobs. It might encourage frivolous lawsuits designed to win big legal fees, not to promote equality before the law. To that end, it would increase the cost of doing business, partly because of the cost of these lawsuits. When costs increase, employers are less likely to expand their businesses and thus less likely to hire more employees. Because the legislation would protect classes that are subjective, legal uncertainty and costs could be particularly acute.
Further, the legislation could impose undue burdens on freedom of religion and association. It does purport to include religious-liberty exemptions, but these “protections” have been litigated repeatedly in other contexts, which itself is burdensome. And that’s not to mention Barack Obama’s regulatory agencies, which have repeatedly shown hostility toward religious freedom.
In short, Cotton supports legalized employment discrimination against gay people. In part, he thinks it might infringe religious freedom to prohibit such discrimination, but he wants it protected regardless of reason. Why not the same argument for women? Why should they be so special? After all, many religions believe women should have a subservient role in church, home and society.
Tom Cotton thinks a law would make it harder to find jobs? Under current legalized discrimination, it’s easy to refuse to hire or fire someone flatly and explicitly on account of their sexual orientation, whether they practice it or not.
Arkansas remains opposed to same-sex marriage, polls say, but attitudes are changing for the better. As I noted here, however, an Arkansas Poll showed overwhelming support, 81-11, in Arkansas for the proposition that gays and lesbians should have “equal rights in terms of job opportunities.” The Senate approved this bill. The Republican-led House isn’t likely to vote on it.