Red v. Blue: Sexuality Discrimination
A weekly column where Gettysburg’s College Republicans and Democrats debate topics in the news. This week College Democrats discuss: Sexuality Discrimination
By Isabel Gibson Penrose, College Democrats
Marriage equality is one of the most prominent issues of our time – over fifty percent of Americans support it, and around eighty percent of young people (ages 18-34) support it as well. Most of the public discourse surrounding sexuality is focused on this specific issue, when in reality life for members of the LGBTQ community is not simply defined by marriage.
In fact, compared to some of the difficulties facing queer individuals, marriage equality can seem like a minor issue. Large numbers of LGBTQ individuals are being fired from their jobs for no reason but their sexuality or gender identity, with no federal law in place to stop this from happening. 29 states have no laws preventing someone from being fired based on their sexuality and 32 states have no laws preventing someone from being fired because of their gender identity.
Make no mistake, marriage equality is important. More states approving marriage equality is a triumph, and should be celebrated as such. But when you can be married on Friday and fired because of that marriage on Monday, there is a huge problem. And in five states (including Pennsylvania) that is the reality.
In addition to being fired, homosexual and transgender individuals face discrimination in the workplace in overwhelming numbers. Between 15 and 43 percent of gay people have experienced harassment in the workplace, and an astronomical 90 percent of transgender people have faced it as well. Workplace abuse takes a dramatic toll on a person’s mental and economic wellbeing, and no one should be subjected to it because of who they are or who they love.
Legislation to make such discrimination illegal came to Congress this past December, in the form of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). This act would have would have protected employees on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity, and been a huge step in the right direction for the queer community.
Unfortunately ENDA was blocked by a Rules Committee – voted down seven to three. The seven votes against the bill were Republicans, and the three votes in support of it were Democrats. Last year ENDA passed in the Democratic held Senate, but was never brought to the House for a vote. This basic request for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has been held up by Republicans for decades, and this latest failure to pass the bill is disappointing but unsurprising.
Last year President Obama passed an executive order protecting federal workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity earlier this year. While in the past he has avoided executive action because of a wish for change to come from Congress, their lack of progress spurred him to act.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, religion, age, and disability. There is no reason members of the queer community to not deserve the same respect. Denying them one second more is to deny them basic human rights.