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Religious Tolerance logo

Employment discrimination on the
basis of sexual orientation & gender identity

Other developments

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Presidential executive action during the late 1990s:

bullet1998-MAY-28: President Clinton signed executive order 11478 which bans discrimination against employees in the executive branch of the federal government on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender. In a statement, Clinton said:

"The order provides a uniform policy for the federal government to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal civilian workforce and states that policy for the first time in an executive order of the president."

Thus ended a 41 year struggle to ban anti-gay discrimination among federal civilian employees. The order protects everyone: gays, lesbians, bisexuals, heterosexuals, men and women, from discrimination. This order follows one passed by President Nixon which had banned discrimination on the basis of race, color and religion. Some speculate that the order might also apply to private firms doing business with the government.

Uniformed members of the Armed Services are not included. They have very limited rights under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Sexual orientation is not covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This means that heterosexuals, bisexuals, gays and lesbians cannot bring bias complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Gary Bauer of the fundamentalist Christian advocacy group Family Research Council, called on Congress to rescind the "outrageous" executive order. He said that the order might affect more than federal employees, "... possibly anyone who received a federal grant or contract with the federal government. ... In other words, it will force a special preference for homosexuality into government and private workplaces." Bauer appears to be unfamiliar with the executive wording which does not mention homosexuals or homosexuality. It protects persons of all sexual orientations equally.

According to the Washington Times, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) said:

"Once again this Administration pushes extreme policies on behalf of a narrow special interest group. ... I call on the president to reconsider this decision."

Even as early as the mid to late 1990s, polls showed that 70 to 80% of American adults favored an end to discrimination on the basis of an employees sexual orientation. Three out of four Americans arenot a narrow special interest group. 5

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bulletIn 1998-JUN House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, (R-TX), and three other Republicans attempted to obtain support to overturn the executive order. He said:

"We hope we are moving in this country toward a time when there will be no need to grant special rights and privileges to any group over any other.'' 

That is a laudable goal. However, it will take a lot of time before racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, etc. are eliminated.

bullet1998-AUG-5: Representative Joel Hefley (R-CO) initiated an amendment which would have overturned President Clinton's executive order. It was soundly defeated by a vote of 252 to 176. In an unusual move, 63 Republicans joined 188 Democrats and one Independent to vote against the measure. This represents the highest level of Republican support for any gay rights issue up until that time. 161 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted for the amendment. This is the first time that Congress has voted in favor of a policy of protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation. President Clinton responded:

"I am gratified that the House has defeated an attempt to overturn my executive order providing a uniform policy to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal civilian workforce...This vote reflected the values of our nation...The American people believe in fairness, not discrimination."

Richard Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, a gay-positive group, regarded this vote as a watershed event. He commented:

"The message to the Republican leadership is clear -- stop the gay-bashing now and return to a positive, unifying agenda going in to this critical election...These were Republicans from every political stripe saying to Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich that this attack on gays has gone too far...We commend these 63 Republicans who stood up for the principle that all Americans should be judged on their merits, including gay and lesbian Americans. ...The real story in this vote is that a growing segment of the Republican Party is emerging. They are no longer afraid to draw the line on bashing gays and they are putting the leadership on notice that it will not work. It's bad policy and it's bad politics. That's the message of this victory. While so many have reported on the anti-gay segment of the GOP, this vote shows there is a growing segment of the party that is inclusive and opposes anti-gay discrimination..."This was an unprecedented effort of teamwork in the gay community, with every national gay organization working together in close coordination with key Hill staffers, both gay and straight, on both sides of the aisle. This victory marks the maturing of the gay political movement, and the end of the old one-party strategy. The gay movement is becoming a strong, bi-partisan movement."

Dale Carpenter, head of the Houston chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans referring to the anti-gay stance of many leaders in his party, said:

"This [stance] is turning off mainstream Republicans... We do not send congressmen to Washington to act as religious leaders."

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2000-APR: Lexington KY case:

The American Civil Liberties Union and six other parties brought a lawsuit against Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children on 2000-APR-18. The latter is a very large non-profit organization, with 8 residential facilities, 22 outpatient counseling centers, pregnancy counseling, foster care, adoption programs, etc. They currently deal with 3,300 abused, neglected and emotionally disturbed children. They are is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. 1 59% of their funding comes from the state of Kentucky. The lawsuit states that the organization committed religious discrimination during 1998-OCT when it fired Alicia Pedreira because she is a lesbian. Some of the facts in the case:

bulletShe had been hired as an art therapist for teenagers. 
bulletShe revealed her sexual orientation to her manager before being hired. She was told that her orientation was not an issue as long as she didn't talk about her private life at work.
bulletShe received glowing reports and the respect of fellow employees. 2
bulletOn her own time, she participated in an AIDS walk as a private citizen, wearing a  T-shirt containing a map of Greece with the caption: "Isle of Lesbos". 2 Someone took a photograph of her and, without Alicia's knowledge or consent, entered it into a Kentucky State Fair contest.
bulletHer manager, Jack Cox, and four other employees quit in protest to the firing.
bulletSpalding University and the University of Louisville?s Kent School of Social Work withdrew their students from KBHC?s programs. 3

The KBHC president, Bill Smithwick has allegedly been told by state officials that the state would likely drop funding rather than be codefendants in the lawsuit. Smithwick commented

"We don't think that promoting a lifestyle through the employment of homosexuals is anything that would be in the best interest of children...This [lawsuit] could have a very definite impact on faith-based organizations of all types."

On the KBHC web site, Dr. Smithwick is quoted as saying:

"Part of KBHC?s mission is to provide the best role models possible for the children in care. By employing people who assert their own homosexual behavior, we would be sending a message of approval of that lifestyle to our youth...If the commonwealth decides it will no longer contract with Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children because of this issue, then our state government will be giving tacit approval to the homosexual lifestyle. For the state to make this move before we have had our day in court is to deny us due process of law. It is also sending a message to our most vulnerable citizens that homosexual behavior can lead to a productive, healthy life when facts clearly state the opposite."

Bruce Green, spokesperson of the conservative Christian Alliance Defense Fund regards this as "profoundly important" case. He said:

"The problem here is that you have an agenda-driven lawsuit that is not based on legal principle It's entirely an unprincipled lawsuit that is driven by a political agenda." 4

Author's note on the KBHC case:

There is no known evidence that Alicia talked about her sexual orientation to other employees or to the clients of KBHC.

Of the KBHC's 3,300 clients, probably about in excess of 100 are gay or lesbian; some are currently aware of their orientation; others will become aware of their homosexual orientation as they mature. By hiring only heterosexual employees, the organization is denying these children gay/lesbian role models.

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2014-SEP-10: Legislation introduced in Michigan:

Legislation was introduced to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This is promoted by the Unity Michigan Coalition, a pro-equality group. 6

Sommer Foster, Director of Political Advocacy of Equality Michigan -- another Michigan pro-equality group -- said:

"Equality Michigan is pleased that the legislature is taking action to amend the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act with a fully inclusive bill that protects Michiganders from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The business community and faith leaders have made clear that discrimination is not a Michigan value. It's time to protect all of our citizens and to move Michigan forward.

LGBT people in Michigan have waited too long for this, and they deserve legislation which will actually help them. Which is why the LGBT communities will not support any legislation which does not include both sexual orientation and gender identity, and why inserting licenses to discriminate into the bill will not be tolerated. It is not just a matter of including all members of the LGBT community, the reality is an increasing amount of discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people is based on their gender identity. The people suffering from discrimination everyday cannot afford to wait or be excited about compromise bills that will not deliver the results they promise. The safety and financial security of our fellow Michiganders is not something to compromise on." 7

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. The KBHC home page is at: http://www.iglou.com/ 
  2. "Alicia Pedreira: Therapist fired for being lesbian," at: http://gaytoday.badpuppy.com/
  3. "Baptist Homes for Children fires lesbian," Kentucky Citizen Digest, 1999-MAR. Available at: http://www.tffky.org/ 
  4. Stuart Shepard, "ACLU vs. Kentucky Baptist Homes," at: http://www.family.org/
  5. Peter Freiberg, "President's order protects workers. Anti-Gay discrimination banned in civilian jobs," Washington Blade, 1999-JUN-05, at: http://www.fedglobe.org/
  6. "Support legislation that protects all Michiganders from discrimination," Dont Change Yourself, 2014-SEP, at: http://salsa.dontchangeyourself.com/
  7. Gregory Varnum, "Michigan Legislators Introduce Bills to Modernize Anti-Discrimination Law," Equality Michigan, 2014-SEP-11, at: https://www.equalitymi.org/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Hyperlinks last checked: 2000-MAY-12
Latest update: 2014-SEP-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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