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"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" -- The Declaration of Independence. Our earliest national document seems to speak of incredibly noble ideas. They're optimistic and focus proudly on equality and human rights. Unfortunately, our federal government has never truly followed these words. Sexist, classist, racist and heterosexist behaviors have permeated the administrations of every American president. Though I realize former Vice President Al Gore would not have cured these social ills, I am especially heartbroken to see the new administration perpetuating hateful practices. Specifically, I am speaking of President George Bush's nomination of John Ashcroft for the position of attorney general. Ashcroft has a history of bigoted attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and he has allowed these attitudes to influence his legislative stance. Many senators seem to share my concerns and have grilled the former Missouri senator and governor on alleged accounts of his discriminatory behavior. During the Senate hearings, Ashcroft responded that he truly felt, "Injustice in America against any individual must not stand." I would love to believe this statement, but because of Ashcroft's track record, I remain skeptical. The senator's proposed commitment to fight injustice would actually require a major overhaul of existing national legislation, especially that which governs the workplace. Currently, the United States has several laws to protect employees against discrimination based on race, color, sex, pregnancy, national origin, religion, disability and age. These federal mandates, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Equal Pay Act, leave out at least one group of Americans -- LGBT people. Thirty-nine states continue to allow the firing of employees simply because they are not straight. The Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that fights for LGBT rights, documents unfair firing decisions based on sexual orientation alone. They list a variety of cases on their web page, quoting people who have been fired from a number of organizations, from restaurants to brokerage firms. I know some Americans feel private business should be able to do whatever it takes to stay open, but why should an employer be able to fire a lesbian for no reason and not a straight woman or a Jewish man? As long as our country is in the practice of protecting targeted groups, our government should not condone employment practices based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity. Other Americans obviously feel there is something immoral about being LGBT. And some base these judgements on religious views. It is important to note, however, that our nation was founded upon a promise of certain separations between church and state. As taxpayers and legal citizens, LGBT people have a constitutional right to job protection and occupations free from harassment. Fortunately, some legislators and many lobbyist groups have been pushing for a national law that would add sexual orientation to the list of already protected minority groups. This law, which has faced considerable opposition from many legislators, including Ashcroft, is known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The act simply protects LGBT people from discrimination in the same way that other minorities are already protected. It does not provide them with special privileges nor does the it apply to religious organizations. So why can't our legislators pass a law that only serves to bring equality to an unprotected minority? Many members of Congress feel that discrimination toward LGBT people is not an issue and, unfortunately, many Americans support them. So how about Ashcroft, the so-called "injustice fighter?" He was quoted in a 1996 Congressional Record as saying, "[ENDA] contains seeds of real instability and inappropriate activity, seeds of litigation which could grow way out of hand and send the wrong signals to young people." Our potential attorney general feels that prohibiting discrimination sends a bad message to America's youth. He is so passionate about his bigotry that he has created visible efforts to impose it on the country at a national level, and this shows he cannot be trusted to impartially prioritize law enforcement issues. Unfortunately, in addition to Republicans, many Democrats are beginning to support Ashcroft's nomination. His new stance -- that he will not try to overturn the legal protections of abortion -- may have pacified some, but this does not negate his discriminatory attitudes.

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