March 02, 2004
HRC Denounces Rollback of Rights and Possible Cover Up in U.S. Office of Special Counsel
Marks Second Major Assault on Gay Civil Rights in Ten Days
WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign today strongly denounced the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) for actively trying to roll back a 23 year old interpretation of a statute that prevents federal workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The OSC is the office responsible for investigating and prosecuting federal workplace discrimination, and in recent weeks has removed all information about filing claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation from its website and handbooks.
"In the last ten days, the President has endorsed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would permanently deny basic rights to same-sex couples and their families, while members of his administration are simultaneously working to strip existing protections from federal workers. Despite claims of being compassionate and inclusive, there are very clearly anti-gay forces within the Bush administration who are actively working to chip away at gay American's rights at work and at home," said HRC President Cheryl Jacques.
The OSC has stated publicly that it is re-evaluating its statutory authority to investigate claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation. In a release on Friday, Scott Bloch, Special Counsel of the OSC, said that the protection against sexual orientation-based discrimination originated in an Executive Order from five years ago.
However, a new letter from Elaine Kaplan, former Special Counsel in the OSC, called that claim "demonstrably inaccurateﾃindeed, I cannot imagine where you derived this understanding of the basis for OSC's pre-existing policy regarding sexual orientation discrimination complaints." Kaplan went on to point out that the very documents that have been removed from the OSC website would have demonstrated her point clearly.
"Put quite simply, the OSC is undermining policies that were implemented during the Reagan administration, and then claiming that these protections have only been recently added. This looks and feels like a thinly veiled attack on gay Americans that is being shoddily covered up by the OSC," said Jacques.
The law, 5 USC 2302(b)(10), prohibits discrimination against federal employees or job applicants on the basis of off-duty conduct that does not affect job performance. Although there is no explicit reference to sexual orientation in the statute, it has long been interpreted to include sexual orientation. Executive Order 13087 - issued May 28, 1998 - reaffirmed that position. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management continues to assert that the government has interpreted statute [2302(b)(10)]"to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sexual orientation means homosexuality, bisexuality or heterosexuality."
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that GLBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.