Next week the United States Senate is scheduled to vote on whether or not federal law should be expanded to include employment protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to a Huffington Post poll, 50% of Americans think such protections already exist. But the reality is that, as of the date this article was written, you can still be fired in 29 states for simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Below is a map provided by the Human Rights Campaign that shows which states have protections in place and which do not.
The orange states have employment protection laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity. The purple states have laws that protect only sexual orientation, but do not include gender identity.
Law enforcement officers sacrifice enough by putting their lives on the line every day for our protection. They should not have to also put who they are on the line and face the risk of being fired simply because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender; in fact, no one should. For all of the concern LGBT opponents have about family, they should be very concerned about how the lack of employment protection threatens families. If an LGBT employee is fired from their job, how can they take care of their families? The Employment Non-Discrimination Act does impact families and does impact children. Just like marriage equality, ENDA will provide families with an improved level of security. It will prevent bigoted employers from terminating an employee for simply who the employee is.
For large segments of our society, marriage equality has become an icon of what equality means. I would argue that more LGBT people would benefit from employment protection than will from marriage equality. Everyone needs a job in order to live in this country. There are many more single LGBT people out in the workforce in the 29 states without employment protection than there are couples. I’m not suggesting that marriage isn’t important, but I am saying we aren’t even close to achieving true equality in this country until individuals can be who they are in the workplace and free from the constant threat of termination.
Every member of the LGBT community should be writing their representatives in the United States Congress and United States Senate urging them to vote in support of ENDA. The President has said he will sign the bill, so its now just a matter of securing enough votes. Make your voice hear now. Click Here To Contact Your Representative. Learn more and staff informed by checking out the Human Rights Campaign.