One Equal World

Posts Tagged ‘discrimination

A businessman dressed in a suit and tie rips open his shirt, revealing a rainbow shirt underneath.

Image credit: Shutterstock

In all fifty states, same-sex marriage has been made legal. But in 28 of those states, mentioning your fiance’s name when asking for time off for your honeymoon can get you fired, because in more than half the country it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people in the workplace. And in the midst of the current conservative backlash against gay rights, it’s important to take grassroots stands in the workplace.

Here are a few suggestions for what you, your coworkers, and your boss can do to make acceptance one of your core values.

1. The big one: benefits. This is your employer putting their money where their mouth is. Make sure your coworkers with same-sex partners and non-traditional families have the same access to health care that you do, including gender-blind parental options, allowances for adoption and surrogacy, and gender-affirmation and transition-related care.

2. Help support resource groups for LGBT employees, particularly if you are in a state that still supports discrimination. They need a place where they can discuss the weight of those issues.

3. Ask what your company is doing to support LGBT people outside their walls. Do they give preference to relationships with other inclusive companies? Devote any resources to outreach? Does your leadership do any communicating on this issue, or is it just a line for show in the company’s values posters?

4. Track what’s actually happening. Does the data indicate that your goals for diversity are being met? This doesn’t mean hiring to a quota–if you’re truly inclusive, that should be entirely unnecessary. If you can’t have this data, ask your HR why.

5. Speak up when you hear ugly speech at work. It only takes one bigot to make LGBT employees feel unwelcome and under fire if everyone else lets their behavior go unremarked. Report what you hear, and hold your employer responsible for responding.

There are many, many more tactics to take to make your job a shelter for those who still need it. Most of these tactics can be applied to any under-served population, and will make you a role model for other employers in your community.

A photo of a skyscraper with rainbow colors on it.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Although the White House backed away from an executive order that would have allowed federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, it is still clear that this is not an administration that will go out of the way to defend the LGBTQ+ community. With a number of states having passed or considered passing various “bathroom bills” or “religious freedom” bills that would enshrine discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, the situation for LGBTQ+ rights is precarious.

But there are allies, especially in the one sector that conservatives value more than any other: business. As we’ve seen, discriminatory laws don’t work out well for the states that enact them, and in a number of cases, it is local and national companies that are first in line to oppose such bills.

For example, 82% of Fortune 500 companies explicitly forbid discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In Texas, 1,200 companies came forward in opposition to SB-6. And in Tennessee, the Hospital Corporation of America, FedEx, Jack Daniels, and Country Music Television opposed a proposed law that would allow mental health counselors to refuse treatment based on their religion. In Georgia, Salesforce, Apple, Microsoft, Disney, Intel, and Home Depot urged the governor to veto that state’s discrimination bill, which worked.

Republicans have made it clear that they don’t listen to people who won’t tell them what they want to hear, and this administration will absolutely be no different in that. But that’s people. When it comes to businesses, they’re a lot more likely to listen. While it may bother many of us that companies have so much more clout with politicians than do the people of the United States, when they use that clout to help prevent the passage of discriminatory bills, it would be absurd to turn away such allies.

Hillary Clinton campaigns at the Iowa State Fair on August 15, 2015.

Hillary Clinton campaigns at the Iowa State Fair on August 15, 2015. Photo: Hillary for America | FlickrCC.

Recently, Hillary Clinton made a speech to the Human Rights Campaign articulating her plan to continue her LGBT support moving forward. But her speech comes at a time that might be more than a coincidence: it’s not unlikely that Clinton is trying to regain lost ground in the current presidential election, as she was the last of potential Democratic contenders for the presidency to embrace LGBT issues, after Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

So do we believe that her address was heartfelt? Do we forgive her, pleased by her political turnaround—and do we forgive others in similar positions?

Clinton told the group that she would sign the Equality Act, to make repairs to a 1964 act to outlaw discrimination in housing and employment for LGBT individuals. But years ago, she was also highly supportive of Bill Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act. It’s possible that her address was genuine, but it’s equally possible that her interest is in getting votes rather than making amends.

Clinton isn’t the first politician to switch sides. Ken Mehlman, former manager of George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, once held anti-gay sentiments. But when he came out in 2010 as gay himself, Mehlman became one of the very few openly gay members of the Republican Party. He came out to mixed but generally supportive reactions, despite his previously anti-gay beliefs. Subsequently, Mehlman and amici have written a brief in opposition to religious freedom laws’ impingement of gay rights.

Mehlman’s situation is different than Clinton’s because he has a personal stake in LGBT issues, and that makes his former sentiments and behavior easier to forgive. The ethics here are tricky, but as a gay Republican, Mehlman holds remarkable political power that could be used to further LGBT rights.

But what about Clinton? Her stake isn’t personal, it’s political. But at least she finally wants to work to support LGBT legislature. Better late than never.

You’ve helped change a lot of minds, including mine, and I am personally very grateful for that,” Clinton said in her speech.

Clinton can’t be quite as easily forgiven as Mehlman, whose history elicits a bit more empathy. But she can be forgiven, and she does have the power to help the LGBT cause. Calling Clinton on her tardiness to the issues without alienating her is the way to show her how to make amends—if her mind can be changed, so can the minds of many others, particularly with her guidance.

A balance of integrity is needed here. Mindful, open, and deliberate forgiveness will be the best approach, with the hopes of educating and forgiving others who have also been mistaken.

An illustration of the multi-colored gay rights flag and the flag of Kenya.

A clash of cultures: President Obama’s support of LGBT rights is in conflict with the traditional views of Kenya’s President Kenyatta. Photo: Aleksandar Mijatovic |

President Barack Obama lectured Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta about his country’s rights record. Under Kenyan law, sexual activity between men is illegal and punishable with a maximum imprisonment of 14 years. Many Kenyan leaders had encouraged Obama not to discuss gay rights at all on his first trip to the country as President.

“When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode,” Obama said at a joint press conference with the Kenyan leader in Nairobi. “And bad things happen.”

Kenyatta said that while the US and Kenya share many common values and goals, gay rights is not one of them. “The fact of the matter is Kenya and the U.S. share so many values: common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families — these are some things that we share,” Kenyatta said. “But there are some things that we must admit we don’t share. Our culture, our societies don’t accept.”

The new conference followed closed-door discussions in which the two leaders agreed to collaborate on economic growth. Obama said to reporters that African entrepreneurs were key to fighting security threats like Somali militant group al Shabaab, which has targeted Kenya.

Obama’s first pilgrimage to Kenya was three decades ago where he backpacked through the nation where he has roots. He also mentioned during this visit that he would return to the country to do philanthropic work there after his presidency.

We-dont-discriminate-stickerArizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed businesses to “exercise their religious beliefs” by not allowing gays and lesbians to frequent their establishments. When Brewer shot the bill 1062 down, gay rights advocates who had gathered outside the Capitol cheered and celebrated along with other opponents of the bill.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, said at the time that Brewer “demonstrated that basic respect for LGBT people extends across party lines, and anti-LGBT bias isn’t just bad politics, it’s bad for business.”

Now in Mississippi, SB2681, called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is another discriminatory law set on anti-gay, recently signed by Governor Phil Bryant. Proponents claim the law isn’t as strict as the Arizona proposal, but civil rights advocates says it’s a blatant way to set a path for anti-LGBT statutes.

But now business owners in Mississippi are fighting back, saying they don’t agree with the new law. Stickers stating “We Don’t Discriminate. If you’re buying, we’re selling” are making their ways to window fronts. The blue stickers with the rainbow banner are popping up in urban neighborhoods, is a way for business owners to respond to the law and show possible customers they don’t discriminate.

Eddie Outlaw owns a hair salon and is an LGBT activist. He says the immediate reaction has been overwhelming. “The response has been incredibly positive,” says Outlaw. “Mississippians are taking a stand against discrimination of any kind, and I’m proud to be a part of a business community united in that fight.”

Michigan denies LGBTs service

Michigan State employees are required to refuse service to anyone they suspect might be gay.
Image: Shutterstock

Michigan got a whole lot colder earlier this month when news broke that its state employees are required by law to refuse services for gay people. According to Slate, “In Michigan, all you need to change your last name is a marriage license. But when Jesse Sherman, who married his longtime partner Derek Melot in New York last October, presented his license to a state employee, his request was denied.” Apparently in Michigan you just have to appear gay to be denied such a service. The Secretary of State’s office confirmed the discriminatory policy explaining, “anything that would lead the staff person to believe [a marriage certificate] is a same-sex marriage license” would result in a denial of services, reports Slate.

Sadly, this disturbing facet of Michigan’s state-sanctioned anti-LGBT policy comes as no surprise to many. As Slate reports, “In 2004, Michigan voters enshrined homophobia in the state constitution, passing an amendment that forbade the state from legally recognizing any facet of a same-sex relationship.” This mandate prohibits name changes, recognition of unions, and in this case, even extending services to LGBTs.

Geographically, Michigan will soon be one of the only states among the northern Midwestern states that doesn’t recognize same-sex relationships. Freedom to Marry’s Progress in the States map illustrates where same-sex marriages are legal, revealing that Michigan is completely sandwiched by more progressive states like Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, and even Indiana. Even Republican strategist Ken Mehlman is hopeful that states were conservatism rules will soon rally for same-sex marriage recognition. In a recent Wall Street Journal Op-Ed he explains, “Conservatives don’t need to change core convictions to embrace the growing support for equal rights for Gay Americans,” of the momentum that the gay rights movement is gaining for marriage equality.

The recent LGBT discrimination in Michigan is a reminder of how the fight for same-sex marriage recognition in all 50 states is still far from being won.

LGBT flag

Washington, Connecticut, and New York were among the most LGBT friendly employment states.
Image: Shutterstock

As the LGBTQ community and its allies cheer for small state-specific victories in marriage equality, it is important to remember that safe spaces are still constantly being threatened by the hate of some individuals. Just because same-sex marriage is allowed in certain states, it doesn’t mean that those states are exempt from LGBTQ discrimination. Sadly, intolerance and discrimination is often still present in schools, public spaces, and for many gay and lesbian adults, in the workplace.

Recently, the employment law website XpertHR conducted a survey that evaluated each state and its ability to be LGBT-friendly in the workplace. Ranked in no particular order, XpertHR’s “To 10 LGBT-Employment Friendly States survey” reveals the places in our country where LGBT peoples are likely to be the most accepted and protected in the workplace. The survey was based on marriage equality rankings, workplace discrimination protections, and benefits for those with same-sex partners.

The northeastern United States had the largest number of LGBT employment-friendly states; New Hampshire, despite its laws that recognize same-sex marriage, was the only state in New England that didn’t make the “Top 10” list. According to XpertHR, “Employment opportunities and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have been on the rise in recent years but vary considerably from state to state. Some states mandate certain legal protections and benefits for LGBTs explicitly while others offer no protections or benefits,” of the state-specific variance of protective laws set in place for LGBT peoples in the workplace.

States that made the top ten list include: Connecticut, California, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. According to Peggy Carter-Ward, XpertHR’s Head of Content, “These states are leaders in safeguarding LGBTs against discrimination in the workplace – by passing gay rights ordinances, permitting same-sex marriage, providing benefits to same-sex partners, and/or outlawing hate crimes.” Hopefully these leaders in LGBT workplace justice will inspire inclusion in other parts of the country.