For those who share a vision for a country in which all LGBT Americans can show up at work each day with the security of knowing that they cannot be fired simply for who they are or whom they love, the last month has been marked by great disappointment and a historic victory.
But both are stark reminders that even in our own LGBT and allied community, too few understand the significance of either the disappointment or the victory. Shockingly, a large percentage of us are unaware that LGBT people do not actually have federal employment protections. In most states in most of the country, it is perfectly legal to be fired for who you are or whom you love. Really? That is the reaction, in large part, of LGBT people and the public alike. And that’s a hurdle we need to overcome in order to move forward.
Let’s look at some recent developments and address the problems we face in educating ourselves and the public that the playing field is anything but level and we certainly haven’t yet achieved full equality.
The disappointment came on April 11. The White House announced that contrary to the hopes of advocates, and despite polls showing that a large majority of Americans support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers, President Obama would not sign — at this time — an executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination by businesses that take contracts with the government. In an attempt to clarify their reasoning behind not protecting scores of people immediately, the White House took the opportunity to reemphasize its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Many people are simply scratching their heads, since there is no chance whatsoever of passing ENDA in the current Congress. The road is clear: we must continue to advocate for his signing the executive order in the shorter term, and we must pass federal employment protections for LGBT people.