Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Free to Marry, Free to Work

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E.J. Graff has a thoughtful article in The American Prospect on the importance of gay marriage.

Last month, Rhode Island came over into the marriage equality column. Last week, it was Delaware. Yesterday, it was Minnesota. There’s progress expected in New Jersey, Illinois, and at the Supreme Court. Pick your favorite cliché or metaphor about winning—being on a hot streak, passing the tipping point, bending the arc of history—and feel free to apply.

And yet few Americans are aware that in 29 states, you can still be fired for putting a same-sex partner’s picture on your desk, or rejected for a job because the hiring manager doesn’t like homos. That’s right—it’s perfectly legal in most of the country to fire, refuse to hire, demote, or otherwise discriminate against someone for being gay.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would make it illegal to fire people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1994. Even before that, New York state representatives Bella Abzug and Ed Koch (who would go on to become the mayor of New York City) introduced a version of ENDA in 1974, then called theEquality Act. In 1996, under Bill Clinton, ENDA failed by just a single vote—the very same day that the House passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for federal purposes as being between one man and one woman, and which is currently up for evaluation at the Supreme Court. The congressional debate about “defending” marriage was hateful, replete with references to discredited “scientific” studies about how many hundreds of sex partners an average gay man had and statements about AIDS being God’s punishment for immorality or about gay marriage leading to  legal marriage to your German shepherd (some of us, at the time, wondered what was up with these legislators and their German shepherds). ENDA was tossed in as a way to prove that all that hate wasn’t really hate, just reverence for the institution of marriage.

This hoary old bill was once again put on Congress’s floor at the end of April, buried during a busy news week. Not that anyone would have paid attention even if it had been slow. Perpetual loser bill reintroduced once again—there’s a memorable headline. The difference is that the LGBT advocacy community is nearly united in agreeing that passing ENDA is this year’s overriding goal.

Had ENDA passed in 1996—well, that’s a counterfactual that boggles the mind. There’s a reason that we’ve won civil unions or marriage only in states that havefirst passed statewide nondiscrimination laws. We only win relationship recognition when people know gay people. But too many people are afraid to come out on the job if they might lose that job for being gay. That’s a double whammy: Not only do you have to lie, implicitly, at work, leaving your daily life fraught with anxiety and your income a bit at risk; you also lose your ability to wear down others’ anti-gay prejudice. People change their minds about whether we deserve recognition for our relationships only when they realize that they like us and our partners. Once they realize that the gays they ostensibly hate include Mary Beth in accounting and Jamal in HR, that hatred starts to soften. And once Mary Beth and Jamal know they can keep feeding their families once they’re out, they are more likely to feel comfortable introducing you to their partners at the grocery store or at church, and explaining how much a statewide DOMA would hurt their kids. Had nationwide job protections been in place since 1996, it’s possible to imagine we’d be even farther along with marriage in still more states, as more people realized they cared about their gay colleagues.

If ENDA is so important, why has marriage gotten so far while protection on the job has stalled? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2013 at 9:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Law

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