According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, 90% of transgender people reported experiencing some type of harassment, discrimination, or mistreatment while at their job, while 40% of transgender individuals are unemployed.
Most shockingly, 90% of voters think that there are federal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity – in fact, those protections only exist for federal employees.
Nevertheless, there is some small, though exciting, news from Congress brought to us by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: Senator Carper of Delaware has co-sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and because he is the 51st co-sponsor, the ENDA now has a majority of support in the Senate. Having a majority of support means that the bill can progress forward through the legislative process and, eventually, towards enactment into law.
For those who need a refresher, the ENDA would make it illegal for public and private employers, unions, and employment agencies to discriminate against current or prospective employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation draws on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It would bar any type of hiring quota or special treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, and exempts small businesses with fewer than 15 employees, religious organizations, and the military. The law does not require an employer to justify or remedy a “neutral practice” that has an adverse impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Also, it does not apply retroactively, meaning that any violation of ENDA that occurs before it is passed in a state cannot be challenged under the law.
Also, check out this great collection of LGBTQ vocabulary and terminology put together by UC San Diego!
In preparation for its renowned LGBT-themed Mardi Gras celebration, the municipal government of Sydney, Australia painted a pedestrian street crossing to resemble the rainbow.
The art installation also recognizes the 35th anniversary of the international event, which annually attracts 400,000 people.
However, it appears that the crosswalk has become too popular – and now the city has plans to deconstruct it on April 10 at a cost of more than US$30,000.
A safety review conducted at the vibrant intersection revealed that many pedestrians disregard the risk of oncoming traffic to obtain photos of the rainbow, and often position themselves in the road to do so. For this reason, the Sydney government believes the installation has become more of a hazard than an icon of inclusiveness.
Supporters of the crosswalk have countered with a petition with more than 15,000 signatures saying: “Lesbians and gay men were beaten and bashed on Oxford Street in 1978 and homophobic violence was rife for years. To now have our flag on our street celebrates how far we have come and is a tribute to the battles we have won.”
Bmoreinclusive believes that rather than invest further funds into the elimination of such a grandiose symbol of inclusion, the Sydney government should consider more cost-effective alternatives to encourage safer appreciation of the installation.
Public images and icons that function as testaments to LGBT inclusion are vital to promoting an inclusive community, and establish a physical territory as the site of progressive social change. These symbols should not be treated cavalierly by governments, but rather should be respected as reflections of the city’s values.
For more information about this event, check out The Guardian’s report here.
Check out this new video from The New York Times discussing President Obama, Wall Street, and marriage equality.
Here is one highlight that stresses the value of businesses supporting LGBT inclusion:
Nowadays, business flexibility depends in part on marriage equality. LGBT employees will not accept job transfers to states that do not recognize them as equal citizens with respect to marriage. This stumbling-block makes business profitability more strained as the best employees for a certain job cannot always be placed where they need to go. In this manner, what’s good for social justice is also good for business.
As we usher in the new year, workplace equality on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity remains an important and unresolved issue. Many companies are implementing their own policies to resolve the issue, but there is no federal law or regulation that mandates workplace equality in place. Although Congress has never passed legislation to protect workplace equality, it has not completely overlooked the issue either. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is an act that has been considered in Congress, but it has not yet been passed.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ensure workplace equality nationwide, has not yet been passed in Congress and may not pass this year or anytime in the near future. The act has already been stuck in Congress since 1994—which means it has been considered without being passed for almost twenty years. Many political issues—particularly fiscal issues—have overshadowed this important act over the years, but it seems absurd that people overlook important legislation that could improve the economy and would certainly improve the lives of many citizens.
Sexual orientation and gender identity should not be criteria in determining which individual is most qualified for a job—other factors, like education and work experience, are clearly far more important when hiring employees. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would prevent sexual orientation and gender identity from affecting whether an employee is hired or fired, which would force businesses to consider the far more important criteria in terms of employment.
Although there is currently no federal legislation preventing workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, many states have state-specific legislation protecting these employees. Five states (Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, and Wisconsin) have laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation.
Fifteen states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C.) have laws protecting employees on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Clearly, many states support workplace equality and are willing to pass their own legislation to ensure workplace equality for all their workers, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. These states understand that legislation ensuring workplace equality for LGBT individuals is necessary to our country and that this legislation actually upholds Constitutional values of the nation. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would simply extend the country’s existing legislation ensuring workplace equality based on race, gender, age, and nationality, and is therefore the logical next step to ensuring equality for all citizens.
Workplace equality for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities is an issue that has grown in renown in the past decade. As more people rally for the cause, major corporations and small businesses alike are showing their support through programs that protect the rights of their LGBT workers or reimburse individuals in domestic partnerships for the extra taxes they must pay because they are unable to marry. Many businesses have spoken out against workplace discrimination towards non-heterosexual employees, but few businesses have taken up the challenge that OSL Holdings is currently facing.
OSL Holdings is a data technology company founded by Eric Kotch that seeks to acquire data about the purchasing habits of LGBT individuals and straight allies and distribute this data in order to connect businesses and people who support the LGBT community. According to the president of OSL Holdings, Robert Rothenberg, the company is “creating the tools to expend the marketplace in identifying the LGBT community, identify LGBT-owned businesses with major corporations so they can contract with them and do some business.”
OSL Holdings has created a rewards program to incentivize businesses to use the service. This rewards program uses “reward currency” that can be earned and then redeemed for participating goods and services. According to the OSL Holdings website, reward currency functions as a type of “Loyalty Program” that gives credit to loyal customers and businesses, which gives retailers “a package of products and services for better business efficiency, boosting sales and profitability.” These products and services will allow the businesses to market more specifically to the LGBT community, which will thus provide this community with a better marketplace experience and will boost sales for the businesses themselves.
OSL Holdings is not the first company that has sought to strengthen the LGBT community using the marketplace. Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI), a company that according to its slogan has “helped business leaders understand and successfully connect with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community since 1992,” also seeks to expose the importance of the LGBT community in the marketplace. CMI holds conferences and workshops for employees, executives, and small business owners that focus on how companies can incorporate the LGBT community in their marketing, thus gaining the business of a strong community.
CMI also hosts events around the United States that allow businesses and corporations that all support workplace and marketplace equality for individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. The company will be holding its sixth-annual Gay and Lesbian Marketing Conference in New York City during March of 2013. The conference includes sessions that focus on why the LGBT community is important to the economy, how to market products and services to this community, and how to connect with other businesses working towards the same goal.
When large corporations and small businesses connect in order to advocate for the LGBT community, this strong network of support can help individuals to come together and rally for the cause. Companies like OSL Holdings and Community Marketing, Inc. help LGBT individuals and straight allies to unite and support a community that is vital to the American economy. If we support marketplace equality, not only will we strengthen the LGBT community, but with companies like OSL Holdings and CMI uniting the supporters, we will also strengthen the American economy.
Written by Jordan Javelet
Check out this excellent interactive tool from The Guardian that breaks down LGBT rights in the United States state-by-state. The chart provides information concerning laws that govern marriage, adoption, hospital visitation, employment discrimination, and other categories.
Since we last featured this cipher in May, several advancements towards equality have been made, including: the progression of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in Congress, the passage of marriage equality statutes in 4 new states, the increase in the frequency of LGBT-inclusive advertising, and more!
As momentum continues to build in the fight for LGBT equality in the workplace, the marketplace, and beyond, take a few moments to check out where your state stands in this movement.
Written by Michelle
In an increasingly volatile economy, a financial planner is becoming more important to achieving economic security, yet financial planning firms are generally unresponsive to the needs of the LGBT community.
A 2010 survey by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards found that nearly half of respondents believe financial planners have become more of an asset since the financial crisis. Of those who began using a financial planner since 2008, the start of the recession, 31% did so as “difficult times created more need for financial guidance.” People have discovered that financial planners help manage crises and life changes that could significantly impact their economic resources, making the ability to receive frequent financial advice a valuable tool today.
LGBT Americans remain distanced from its benefits, though. Prudential Financial Inc., a company specializing in insurance, investment management, and other financial products, recently released an online study of 1,400 LGBT Americans that found that 63% rated the financial industry’s attention to their needs as 4 or lower out of a score of 10; another 47% don’t believe this dynamic will improve over the next two years.
But the LGBT community faces unique financial needs that are unaddressed, even though they share many core concerns as heterosexual individuals: retirement, preparedness in the face of unemployment, and establishing a fund for future generations are three concerns that are often shared regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Despite these common concerns, the laws regarding LGBT finances and families vary in different states, frequently change, and are not widely promoted or easily understandable. Specialized concerns include:
Because of these additional considerations that heterosexual individuals do not encounter, the LGBT population often needs knowledgeable financial planning assistance. Yet the void of responsiveness to these needs results in a lack of confidence in the financial planning institution.
This dissonance deepens to a point where LGBT individuals lose confidence in themselves as financial planners, as they contend with the triple blow of a recession in an economy that already discriminates against them, together with an advisory system that neglects their unique needs.
The Prudential research study offers a few suggestions for financial planners trying to reach out to the LGBT community. Within this audience, most are solidly middle-class, and retirement is the top financial concern. In terms of outreach strategies, financial planners need to be sensitive to the distinct characteristics and outlooks of different groups in the LGBT community and to general economic discrimination – most are far more concerned about equality in Social Security or legislation affecting LGBT financial rights than the national debt and inflation.
Expertise in the complex financial and familial concerns of same-sex couples or LGBT parents is sorely needed, and can help better and empower millions of lives.
The 2013 Creating Change conference, focused on LGBT Equality, will be held in Atlanta, Georgia from January 23 to January 27, 2013.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hosts this event, which will offer 350 workshops and training sessions, as well as other fantastic opportunities to network and see what others are doing to support LGBT equality in this country.
Those interested in attending can register here!
Although marriage equality acts have only been passed in ten states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C.), many companies have begun implementing plans that will provide tax benefits for their gay and lesbian employees in domestic partnerships. Because non-heterosexual employees can only get married in certain states, many gay and lesbian employees who are part of a domestic partnership do not get the tax benefits provided to married couples, and since the government will not provide these tax benefits, companies have started providing the benefits themselves.
TD Bank is the latest company to begin offering tax benefits to its non-heterosexual employees. The bank has created a program that allows its employees in domestic partnerships to sign up for these benefits. TD Bank will then pay for the taxes on employer-provided health benefits that the individuals otherwise would have to pay themselves. This tax does not apply to married heterosexual employees, and in states where legislation prohibits marriage equality, many non-heterosexual couples must pay the tax.
TD Bank is not the first company to implement a program that compensates for the tax on employer-provided health care. Many major corporations, such as Google, American Express, JetBlue, and Facebook, already provide tax reimbursements for their non-heterosexual employees, and many of these companies have been providing these tax benefits for several years.
Many other companies that do not already provide tax reimbursements plan to begin a tax benefit program. Time Warner, like TD Bank, will begin providing tax benefits on January 1, 2013. Other companies, like Verizon and IBM, have no current plans but are reviewing their policies and the costs of a program providing tax reimbursements. Hopefully, these companies will begin planning and may be able to implement programs to provide tax equality for their non-heterosexual employees in domestic partnerships.
Although state governments may prevent non-heterosexual couples from getting married and utilizing the tax benefits associated with marriage, it is reassuring to know that major companies are willing to take the matter into their own hands and provide these benefits to their employees in domestic partnerships. It may take several years before marriage equality is ratified across the country, but it is clear that more and more individuals and companies recognize the lack of equality and are willing to work to change this problem. As more companies support equality for all citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, more pressure is put on citizens and on state governments to provide these tax benefits and to eventually legalize marriage equality.
One day after we posted that Verizon had been petitioned to end its funding to the anti-gay Boy Scouts of America (BSA), one of the organization’s largest funders – the Merck Foundation – has made the decision to eliminate its own funding.
Merck, which manufactures pharmaceutical products, said that the BSA’s active exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals conflicts with the company’s non-discrimination policy. As a business entity, Merck has to honor the ethical guidelines that govern its actions. Bankrolling a group that explicitly and deliberately violates those principles weakens the entire company’s ethical backdrop.
Interestingly, though, this moral conflict is clothed in economics and law – Merck has not decided to withdraw funding just because they disagree with the BSA’s practice of discrimination on grounds of social policy – those actions also violate one of Merck’s company policies. This dual-pronged reasoning helps frame Merck’s decision as one not simply of impassioned moralizing in the social realm, but of good business practice, too.
Merck donated $30,000 to the BSA in 2011, not enough to crack the list of top 25 BSA funders, but certainly enough to send a message if cancelled – and even more powerful when we consider the fact that Merck is one of many businesses doing just that.
There appears to be growing momentum among businesses that they have a responsibility to promote a more egalitarian workplace and that they can leverage their economic relationships in order to do that. We need more businesses like Merck to be willing to act on their non-discrimination policies. The words written in them are not empty; they have meaning and they should be viewed as standards.
Until the law in every state has codified that one cannot be discriminated against because of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, businesses will have to assume the task of implementing this principle themselves. Although it is certainly admirable, it is not enough for a business to be inclusive themselves and call it a day; we need them to ascertain whether their neighboring stores, suppliers, and partnering institutions also support workplace equality.