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Religious Tolerance logo

Ending employment discrimination based
on sexual orientation and gender identity


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States protecting heterosexuals, gays, lesbians & bisexuals:

As of mid-1996, Americans could have been legally fired from their jobs simply because of their sexual orientation in 41 states. In essentially every case, it is a gay, lesbian or bisexual who is fired. However in those states with laws preventing discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation, heterosexuals are also protected.

The number of states with anti-discrimination laws was unchanged at nine by 2000-MAY. According to FindLaw, by 2006, sixteen states:

"... and the District of Columbia have laws that currently prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in both public and private jobs: ..."

"... in Oregon, while no state law has been passed to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in private employment, at least one court case found that sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited under the state's constitution (Tanner v. Oregon Health Sciences University, 157 Ore. App. 502, 971 P.2d 435 (1998))."

"In addition, seven states have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in public workplaces only: Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Washington. ..."

"Over 180 cities and counties prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in at least some workplaces -- from Albany, NY, to Ypsilanti, MI." 4

As of 2007-APR, 18 states and the District of Columbia had laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation:

bulletA near contiguous group of ten jurisdictions in the Northeast: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
bulletA contiguous group of four states in the Midwest: Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa.
bulletA contiguous group of four western states: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada.
bulletNew Mexico and Hawaii.

31 states were without such protection.

Since early 2007, laws in three states became effective; all prohibit discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. A broadened Iowa law took effect on 2007-JUL-01. 5 A similar law in Colorado took effect on AUG-08, and another took effect in Oregon on 2008-JAN-01. 6

Currently (2009-AUG-08), 12 states and the District of Columbia prohibit workplace discrimination based on either sexual orientation or gender identity. Eight additional states have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 8

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force maintains a map of the U.S. indicating states that have legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and on both sexual orientation and gender identity. 7

Employment discrimination is the most common complaint received by the American Civil Liberties Union from sexual minorities.

Do gays and lesbians need employment protection?

A number of surveys promoted by conservative Christian organizations claim that gays and lesbians have higher incomes than heterosexuals, and thus have no need of civil rights protection in employment.

Perhaps the most famous survey is the one conducted by the Simmons Market Research Bureau in 1988-OCT. It is commonly promoted by the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Freedom Heritage Forum and other conservative Christian groups. The conclusions were reported in The Wall Street Journal in 1991-JUL. The raw data looks impressive:

bulletAverage household Income: Homosexuals: $55,430; National Average: $32,286/yr
bulletPercent College Graduates: Homosexuals: 60%; National Average: 18%
bulletWorkers in Professional or Management Jobs: Homosexuals: 49%; National Average: 16%
bulletTaking overseas vacations: Homosexuals: 66%; national average: 14%

The problem with the data is that the values quoted for "homosexuals" are in no way representative of the average gay and lesbian. the survey was taken among homosexuals who subscribe to one of 8 leading gay newspapers; they thus belong to a select group within the les/gay community.

A study by Dr. Lee Badgett of the University of Maryland showed that gays earn from 11 to 27% less and lesbians earn 5 to 14% less than the national average. Dr. Kenneth Sherril of Hunter College in New York City conducted a study which showed that the economic penalty of homosexuals was less. The American Civil Liberties Union claims that "the only thing close to a representative survey suggests that lesbians and gay men generally earn less than their heterosexual counterparts."

But even if the average homosexual earned more than the average heterosexual, there would be still be many gays and lesbians discriminated against in employment, and in need of legal protection.

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Policies of leading companies:

On 2003-JUL-1 "Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest private employer, [announced that it] has expanded its antidiscrimination policy to protect gay and lesbian employees..." This change is apparently in response to an effort by Pride Foundation -- a Seattle gay rights group -- which had invested in Wal-Mart during 2001 and then had lobbied the company to change its policies.

Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's vice president for communications, said

"It's the right thing to do for our employees. We want all of our associates to feel they are valued and treated with respect ? no exceptions. And it's the right thing to do for our business."

The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group in Washington, D.C., that monitors discrimination policies and laws, reported that nine of the ten largest Fortune 500 companies now have rules barring discrimination against gay employees. The exception is the Exxon Mobil Corporation, which was created in 1999 after Exxon acquired Mobil. The nrw company then revoked a Mobil policy that provided medical benefits to partners of gay employees, as well as a policy that included sexual orientation as a category of prohibited discrimination.

Civil rights laws:

When the first civil rights bill after the US civil war was debated in Congress, it was criticized for granting "special rights" to African-Americans.

When the Civil Rights Act was debated in 1964, it was criticized because it would destroy the economic viability of companies and attack individual freedom of choice in hiring. The bill became law.

Title VII guaranteed protection against discrimination in employment on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, and disability. This applies to all companies with more than 15 employees. Non-profit religious organizations and the military demanded and received exemption from this law; they insisted that they be allowed to continue to discriminate. But the Civil Rights Act gave no protection for people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and many other grounds.

Internet references:

bulletThe ACLU has a list of horror stories of employees who have been fired because they were perceived as being homosexual. See: http://www.aclu.org/
bulletThe ACLU has a list of municipalities which protect gay and lesbian employment. See: http://www.aclu.org/

Other References:

  1. Associated Press, "Shays Brings Back Legislation to Ban Anti-Gay Discrimination", 1997-JUN-10 (PM)
  2. J.E. Rigdon, "Overcoming a Deep-Rooted Reluctance, More Firms Advertise to Gay Community,", Wall Street Journal, 1991-JUL-18, Page 1B
  3. Sarah Kershaw, "New Wal-Mart Policy Protects Gay Workers," New York Times, 2003-JUL-2. at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  4. "Your rights against discrimination based on sexual orientation," Find Law, 2006, at: http://employment.findlaw.com/
  5. "Iowa Senate File 427," at: http://www.aclu.org/
  6. "Iowa, Colorado, and Oregon Prohibit Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity," NOLO at: http://www.nolo.com/
  7. "State non-discrimination laws in the U.S.," Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2007-APR, at: http://www.thetaskforce.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  8. Andrew Harmon and Michelle Garcia, "ENDA Possible by Year's End," Advocate.com, 2009-AUG-05, at: http://www.advocate.com/

Site navigation:

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Copyright © 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Hyperlinks last checked: 2000-MAY-12
Latest update: 2009-AUG-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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