Yarelyn Mena and Owen H. Laird
When the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the right for same-sex couples to marry, the LGBT community won a long and hard-fought battle for marriage equality. The Human Rights Coalition (HRC), one of America’s largest civil rights organizations committed to ensuring legal rights for the LGBT community, continues the struggle for LGBT rights by supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation aimed at protecting the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace. ENDA would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against potential or current employees based on their sexual orientation or identity.
ENDA resembles Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in its purpose to prevent and eradicate discrimination of protected classes in the workplace. The HRC supports passing ENDA because there “is no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination; there are no state laws in 29 states that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 32 states that do so on gender identity.” Currently, in the states that do not offer protection to LGBT workers, employees and prospective employees face routine and often legal discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA will provide LGBT workers with nationwide protection from employment discrimination, filling in the gaps left by state laws. Protection against sexual orientation and gender identity based discrimination is already widespread. According to a report by the HRC, 8 out of 10 voters already believe that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was illegal, showing that ENDA would provide the legal framework for rights that most Americans already believe exist.
Additionally, the HRC wants Congress to narrow the religious exemption that allows employers to make employment decisions based on sexual orientation if a religious reason is given as justification. Equality will never be reached while exemptions such as these prohibit ENDA from protecting LGBT workers. While many private companies, including a majority of those listed in the Fortune 500, have sexual orientation non-discrimination policies, these internal policies do not have the force of law, and are not an adequate substitute for federal legislation.
Sexual orientation and identity, just like race and gender, should not be a barrier to employment. The United States must continue to be an example for human rights both in the workplace, but in society general. Sexual orientation discrimination remains a serious problem throughout the world. As the United States takes groundbreaking strides towards equality for the LGBT community, other countries around the world continue to permit, and in some cases even encourage, this type of discrimination. As a country modeling freedom and promoting human rights, we must continue to push for ENDA and legislation like it, laws that promote equality and workplace fairness for all, inspiring other countries to join us in creating a truly just world.
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.