For too long, Congress has adhered to a double standard on civil rights: one set of laws for the country, another for itself. Finally the House of Representatives has taken a limited step toward protecting Capitol Hill employees against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap or age. The Senate should do that much and more.
The House step was creation of a fair-employment practices office to which any employee may take charges of discrimination for mediation. If that fails and the employee files a complaint, then the fair employment office would hold a hearing. The results of that hearing could be appealed by either party to a review panel of four Democratic and four Republican House members.
The new House rule does not, however, protect homosexuals. Members still refuse to hire anyone with whose life style they disagree. We’re not sure what that means, but it could mean homosexuals or unmarried heterosexuals living together, or both, and that is too vague.
The rule’s principal sponsor was Rep. Leon E.Panetta (D-Carmel Valley). Only 12 members of the House voted against this most minimal of civil-rights protections. Two were Californians, Robert Badham (R-Newport Beach) and Charles Pashayan Jr. (R-Fresno).
The rule needs strengthening, but at least employees on one side of Capitol Hill now have some of the basic protections their bosses in Congress gave other Americans more than two decades ago.