Making Your Mark and Making a Living: The Need for LGBTQ Employment ProtectionsBy Shane Stahl • June 17, 2019 • 9:51 am
Jimmie Beall of Columbus, OH, was a teacher beloved by her students, who had glowing reviews from her peers. When her contract renewal came up, she expected business as usual. However, she was blindsided when the school board told her they would no longer, “need her services.” Later, Jimmie found out her termination wasn’t the result of poor performance or lack of ability — it was because she is married to a woman.
Jimmie looked to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to try and fight her unfair termination, and was shocked when they could do nothing for her. The reason? Ohio does not offer protections in employment for LGBTQ people — meaning they can be dismissed or refused work simply because of who they are or who they love.
The numbers on LGBTQ employment discrimination are high. A 2017 Harvard survey found that 1 in 5 LGBTQ people say they have been passed over when applying for work or a promotion, or not paid equally. For transgender people, the numbers are even worse — they are unemployed at a rate three times higher than the national average. That statistic includes people like Brooke Thorne, who was harassed at three consecutive jobs simply for being a transgender woman, and left all those positions because she feared for her safety.
However, there have been some small steps recently in the right direction.
Several governors in states including Ohio, Michigan, and Kansas have signed executive orders protecting public LGBTQ employees from discrimination. That means LGBTQ executive branch employees are protected from discrimination, as is any person using programs, services, or activities offered to the public. Work is progressing in several states as well — currently, comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation bills are moving in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, and similar bills have been introduced in Iowa and Virginia, all with support across the political spectrum.
Federal Courts of Appeals in the Second, Sixth. and Seventh Circuits have also recently taken a stand against LGBTQ employment discrimination, ruling that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
And right now, the Supreme Court is considering three cases dealing with Title VII, under which many federal courts and agencies have long held that firing someone simply for being transgender, gay, lesbian, or bisexualis unlawful sex discrimination. The Supreme Court should agree and affirm these existing protections. Learn more about these cases and what’s at stake in our Supreme Court Action Center.
While this positive movement is promising, until all LGBTQ Americans are securely protected from employment discrimination and afforded the right to both get and keep good paying jobs, we will continue advocating for a federal bill that will ensure explicit nondiscrimination protections not only in employment, but in all areas of life.
To stand alongside thousands of faith leaders, business owners, and others in support of a federal bill, sign our pledge today.