At this point, the only protections the community is offered for the workplace is through state or local legislation. There stand no laws at the federal level to ensure an individual cannot be fired for being gay or trans*. Sadly, my state is one of those without protections, and I have a few friends who have lost their jobs for being a part of the community and then had no recourse to fight the discriminatory measures taken against them.
Since 1994, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been repeatedly presented to the congressional floor and never passed, which at sometimes has included either exclusively sexual orientation, and at others, both sexual orientation and gender identity (“Nondiscrimination…”). In its current incarnation, it includes both classes. A recent article from the Washington Blade (article here, highly recommend reading) gave an analysis suggesting the Senate this year at least could be looking to progress ENDA at some point before fall (Johnson).
ENDA is so important to the community on all levels. A job is a basic necessity to survive for most people. It can be so hard to find a job. And why should an individual be scared to lose a job they do find simply for being who they are?
There are many ways to help get ENDA passed. First, educate people. Most people do not know there are no federal protections prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. Simply asking, “Did you know you can be fired for being gay or trans* in most states?” in my experience often gets a mystified response. People just do not know this issue exists, and if we can give people that knowledge, there will be more willing to support the community. Second, write your congressmen and women. Let them know what an important issue this is. These two simple steps can start to put into motion a great change. ENDA will come, the question is how soon, and how much will you and I do to be able to get us there?
For more information on ENDA, why it is important, and what you can tell others to help the cause, visit the HRC’s information site here.
Johnson, Chris. “New Push for 2012 Senate Hearing on ENDA.” Washington Blade. 14 March 2012. Electronic. < http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/03/14/new-push-for-2012-senate-hearing-on-enda/>.
“Nondiscrimination Legislation Historical Timeline.” thetaskforce.org. 2011. Electronic. < http://www.thetaskforce.org/issues/nondiscrimination/timeline>.
“Statewide Employment Laws and Policies.” Human Rights Campaign. 6 January 2012. Electronic. < http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/Employment_Laws_and_Policies.pdf>.