With the spotlight on marriage equality and our recent success in Maryland, Washington, Maine and Minnesota, it is easy to forget that in most states one can still be fired because of his or her sexual orientation. The lack of employment protections not only ruins many careers, it keeps a large number of people in the closet at work. They fear that if they come out, the boss will tell them to get out — and they will have no legal recourse.
As you know, the LGBT community played a pivotal role in President Obama’s reelection campaign. According to the Human Rights Campaign:
President Obama’s national popular vote margin was 3,305,710 votes. As 5 percent of the electorate, 6,043,599 lesbian, gay and bisexual people voted overall, favoring the president with 76 percent of their votes, equaling 4,593,136 people. Had the LGB population voted the same as the national average, President Obama would have only received 3,082,235 LGB votes. In other words, because the LGB community swung so significantly to President Obama, he received 1,510,901 more LGB votes – an astounding 45.7% of the President’s total popular vote margin.
The president has a lot on his plate, including the “fiscal cliff,” dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, worrying about the Chinese and EU economy, and an exploding Syria conflict. But he’s proven to be a talented man adept at multitasking. One of these tasks, in the very near future, should include issuing an executive order requiring federal contractors to institute LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies.
The Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson reports today that openly gay congressman, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), is pledging to take the lead on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He intends to become the chief sponsor of ENDA following the retirement of gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who’s championed the bill since 2007.
“I plan on introducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the next session,” Polis said. “Across our country, gays and lesbians face discrimination in the workplace and lose their jobs and their livelihood. It’s wrong and it’s got to end. People shouldn’t be fired in this country just because of who they date in their private life.”
The Blade reports that in addition to taking the lead on ENDA, Polis said he’ll remain the chief sponsor of another pro-LGBT measure called the Student Non-Discrimination Act — legislation based on Title IX that would prohibit the bullying and discrimination of LGBT students in school.
As usual, the GOP leadership is expected to stand in the way of such important legislation and parliamentary procedures may be needed to get LGBT bills through. However, maybe a few wise Republicans will understand that extremists took a drubbing in the elections. This might lead some to conclude that continuing their party’s anti-gay crusade is a loser with younger voters and imperils the GOP’s future. Passing ENDA would be popular mover, even among many conservative constituents, and good for the rebranding of the party.
It is 2012 and one can still be fired for being gay or trans. This is a national embarrassment and must be changed.
* Blade file photo by Michael Key