President Barack Obama wrote an outstanding blog post on The Huffington Post, giving his reasons why we must pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA. This new law would make it explicitly illegal for employers to make employment decisions (e.g., firing, hiring, promotions, compensation, etc.) based on someone's sexual orientation or gender identity.
ENDA would extend federal employment discrimination protections currently provided based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability to sexual orientation and gender identity. It's important to note that ENDA isn't offering any special rights but simply fair employment practices for LGBT employees.
In 2013 it's absolutely repulsive that 29 states don't explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that 33 states don't explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. It's also part of the reason why so many American men and women are living lives of secrecy, afraid to admit who they really are. The United States is known as the "land of the free," yet in some ways we're anything but free. It's time for all LGBT men and women to stop having to live in fear and worry that if their employer "finds out," they're going to lose their job.
Crosby Burns and Jeff Krehely at the Center for American Progress write, "Studies show that anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment at the workplace. Moreover, a staggering 90 percent of transgender workers report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job." If that isn't bad enough for you, consider these statistics from the Williams Institute:
- Eight to 17 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers report being fired or denied employment because of their sexual orientation.
Behind these statistics are the heartbreaking stories of hardworking Americans who are outstanding at what they do but were let go or had to overcome unnecessary obstacles because of a discriminating employer. Even in states that currently have laws making this kind of discrimination illegal, it's sometimes not enough. There are stories all over the Internet of people being fired, demoted or passed over for a promotion simply on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Critical thinking is simple on this one: Your sexual orientation or gender identity should have absolutely nothing to do with your career. The only thing that should matter? Your job performance. There are so many very qualified, talented and hardworking Americans who happen to be LGBT. And so what if they are? Does it really matter? Of course it doesn't, and that's precisely why it's imperative that Congress pass ENDA. The good news: The majority of Republicans and Democrats back ENDA.
It's time to put a stop to workplace discrimination and singling out some of our best employees simply on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Any employer or person who fails to see that is exhibiting bigotry, discrimination and hatred.
As President Obama said, "[This kind of discrimination is] offensive. It's wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense." The president got it 100-percent correct this time!