Occupy Equality

Subtitle: The majority of Americans (including small business owners) support ENDA

How high does the percentage of Americans who believe that GLBT people should have legal protection from discrimination in the workplace have to be before this country will act on the will of the people? Nowadays, employees can file law suits with an employment discrimination attorney who specialises in workplace discrimination cases, and this specialism has come about because of the alarming number of people who are now being victimised by this issue. It is time the government took some action.

Last June a Center for American Progress poll revealed that 73% of likely 2012 voters supported workplace discrimination protections for GLBT people. That was 81% of democrats, 74% of independents and even 66% of republicans. Catholics favored the concept with 74% support and senior citizens with 61% support. Voters who self-identified as having an unfavorable opinion of GLBT people even supported the idea at a 50% rate.

Since at least the early 1980s, a majority of Americans have supported equal rights and opportunities for gay people in the workplace. Polling questions about transgender workers have only been asked recently. But the CAP poll shows that voters support transgender protections at almost the same rate they support gay protections. Seventy-five percent of likely voters say they favor “protecting gay and lesbian people from discrimination in employment,” while 73 percent say they favor these protections for “gay, lesbian, and transgender people.” The responses are essentially identical.

Even among voters who identify themselves as feeling generally unfavorable toward gay people, a full 50 percent support workplace nondiscrimination protections for the gay and transgender population.

So what’s the problem?

89% of voters erroneously thought that GLBT people already are legally protected from workplace discrimination. In addition, those 9 out of 10-ers did not know if their state had a workplace anti-discrimination law.

How huge of a disconnect is that?

So what the hell is keeping the government from acting?

Members in both chambers of Congress introduced ENDA legislation earlier this year. Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-OR) introduced ENDA in the Senate, where it has 41 co-sponsors. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced ENDA in the House of Representatives, where it has 153 co-sponsors. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently prohibit public and private employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Further, 87 percent of Fortune 500 businesses prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and about half prohibit gender identity discrimination.

Sadly those sates with protections on the basis of gender identity do not include Massachusetts or New York.

What the hell is up with that?

Apparently Congress is terrified of the vocal minority of homophobes and transphobes.

And despite the pressing need to pass this important legislation, a robust lobby of extreme right-wing organizations continues to oppose ENDA. Based simply on their dislike and fear of gay and transgender people, these groups work to spread a wide range of lies about gay and transgender people, the discrimination they face, and the impact ENDA would purportedly have on the business community.

Of course, people like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tells us things like

Supporters of such legislation claim that it would remove the issue of sexual orientation from the workplace and extend employment discrimination protection to gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals. Opponents suggest that although ENDA seeks to remove consideration of sexual orientation from the workplace, it may have the opposite result of causing employers to overtly consider the sexual orientation of all workers in order to defend themselves from possible accusations of discrimination against one or two workers. Such a result would empose significant regulatory burdens and costs on small businesses and could harm the very groups of people the legislation seeks to protect.

Mitch McConnell

Aha. So the “status quo is for our own good”. Who knew?

Focus on the Family followed suit:

Focus on the Family sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives in September 2009, which falsely claims that “ENDA will…increase compliance costs for businesses-costs that small business can ill-afford, particularly during this economic downturn.

CAP has debunked this concern in a new poll. 63% of small business owners support ENDA. 69% already prohibit discrimination against GLB employees and 67% of them said that there were absolutely zero initial costs associated. Of the 25% of employers who said that there were associated costs, 65% said that those costs were less than 1% of annual operating costs. 9% said they didn’t know if there were any associated costs. 80% of the small business owners which prohibit discrimination against GLB employees said there were no long term costs associated either. Of the 12% which said there were such costs, 68% said that cost was less than 1% of annual operating costs. 8% said they didn’t know if there were long term costs.

62% of small business owners prohibit discrimination against transgender employees. Of them, 68% said there were no costs associated with implementation. Of the 22% who said there were costs, 76% said those costs were less than 1% of annual operating costs. 11% did not know if there was associated cost. 76% of owners of businesses with protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity said there were no longterm costs in maintaining those protections. Of the 14% who claimed there were longterm costs, 86% said it was less than 1% of annual operating costs. 10% did not know if there were longterm costs associated with maintaining their policy.

But what about those small businesses that do not have these policies on their books? Do they cite costs as a reason for not having inclusive nondiscrimination policies? Of those small businesses that do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, only 2 percent said costs deterred them from offering protections to gay employees. Only 4 percent cited costs as a deterrent to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Most of these businesses said that they simply never thought to adopt these policies or that they did not have gay or transgender employees currently in their workplace. Costs, however, were not a factor.

McConnell has a back-up complaint about ENDA.

I am concerned however that legislation such as ENDA may extend federal law to infringe on deeply held religious beliefs of some employers and employees. The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects the rights of Americans to practice the religion of their choice.

–Mitch McConnell

So a transperson earning a decent living for working just as hard as anyone else…if not harder (we have to work twice as hard to be thought as half as competent)…violates the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause?

What the fucking hell?

Why can’t GLBT people have protections from workplace discrimination?

Religious bigotry.

That’s what we thought, but I never thought I’d see someone like McConnell admit it so openly.

It’s time, people. It’s time for Americans to stand up to the religious bigots and tell them if they cannot work with us, then it is them who deserve to lose their jobs.

I need your help to fight for equality, to pass a repeal of DOMA, to pass an inclusive employment non-discrimination bill, so that being gay is never again a fireable offensive in America.

–Barack Obama

It’s time to stop looking over our shoulders, time to stop looking for or to a leader, and time to realize that the boogeyman behinds us is our past. We build this movement together toward a better future by living better today. Believing in ourselves strengthens our community which strengthens our movement, and when we take ownership of that we become undefeatable.

Amplify Your Voice/Samantha

1 comment

    • Robyn on October 15, 2011 at 12:09 am
      Author

    Many.

    But every time it comes up, “it’s not the right time”.

    Oh, yeah?  Do we have to have 100% support of the American people?  Or will it still not be “the right time”?

    Bills have been introduced in both houses.  Are your political representatives on board?

    Jeff Merkley’s Senate version (S 811) has 41 cosponsors :  Akaka [HI], Begich [AK], Bennet [CO], Bingaman [NM] Blumenthal [CT], Boxer [CA], Brown [OH], Cantwell [WA], Cardin [MD], Casey [PA, Collins [ME], Coons [DE], Durbin [IL], Feinstein [CA], Franken [MN], Gillibrand [NY], Hagan [NC], Harkin [IA], Inouye [HI], Kerry [MA], Kirk [IL], Klobuchar [MN], Lautenberg [NJ], Leahy [VT], Levin [MI], Lieberman [CT], McCaskill [MO], Menendez [NJ], Mikulski [MD], Murray [WA], Reed [RI], Sanders [VT], Schumer [NY], Shaheen [NH], Snowe [ME], Stabenow [MI], Udall [CO] Udall [NM], Webb [VA], Whitehouse[RI], Wyden [OR].

    Barney Frank’s House Bill (HR 1397) has 153 cosponsors.

    More co-sponsors is better.

    Sen 811 is currently stuck in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  HR 1397 is stuck in the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee, having already been in the House Committee on Eduction and the Workforce and its Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, the House Administration Committee, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and its subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, US Postal Service and Labor Policy.

    By Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts:  H.R. 1397.

    Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following:  Clause 3 of section 8 of article I of the Constitution; clause 18 of section 8 of article I of the Constitution; section 5 of Amendment XIV to the Constitution.

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