Should Employers Be Able to Fire Someone for Being Gay?

Some Republicans oppose legislation that would prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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President Barack Obama's endorsement last week of gay marriage has prompted Congress to re-examine the Employment Discrimination Act, which would prevent job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Rep. James Lankford, a freshman Republican from Oklahoma, said the legislation isn't necessary.

"Race and sexual preferences are two different things. One is a behavior-related and preference-related and one is something inherently—skin color, something obvious, that kind of stuff," Lankford told the Huffington Post.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gay marriage.]

The legislation was first introduced in Congress in 1994 but has failed to pass since then. Another freshman Republican, Rep. Allen West of Florida, told Think Progress the provision wasn't necessary because discrimination based on sexual orientation "don't happen out here in the United States of America." Although there is no federal law preventing it, 21 states and the District of Columbia have policies to protect against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Obama's announcement that he supports gay marriage, as well as North Carolina becoming the 30th state to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman has pushed the issue of gay rights to the forefront in recent weeks. As the president officially kicks off his re-election campaign against likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney, his endorsement of gay marriage is now another issue on which the two candidates disagree.

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