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Senate Committee Talks about Preventing Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

Even before President Barack Obama supported same sex marriage, issues regarding the gender discrimination in the workplace were all over the federal government. However, a fairly important factor on the equality of the point of view is the protection of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination in the workplace.

Last Wednesday, a hearing was held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The hearing talked about the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would illegalize discrimination in the workplace on the basis of the following manners:

•    Actual sexual orientation
•    Perceived sexual orientation
•    Gender identity

However, although 16 out of 50 states in the U.S. have laws protecting LGBT workers and applicants from employment discrimination, 56% of the U.S. population still lives in areas where there are no specified laws protecting the LGBT community. Therefore, the same would be remedied upon the legislation of ENDA.

Although gender discrimination or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace is rare, the federal government would have reason to illegalize the same, as it has done with prejudice based not only on race and gender but also on religion and national origin. However, there is firm evidence that gay and lesbian workers are treated in an unequal manner.

At last week’s hearing, M.V. Lee Badgett, a research director of the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA, mentioned a 2008 study revealing that 42% of the nation’s LGBT people had experienced discrimination in the workplace at least once in their lives. In the largest survey conducted for transgender people at present, 78% of the respondents claimed that they have experienced at least one form of discrimination, harassment or hostility in the workplace.

Recently, there was a controversy among supporters of ENDA that President Obama allegedly plans to veto workplace discrimination ban on LGBT, but it was later proved to be untrue since protection for LGBT is now being pursued. In 2006, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a champion of the legislation, achieved a perfect score at the Human Rights Commission, indicating a pro-gay rights position.

Since then, awareness of both transgender and the fact that they encounter employment discrimination has increased. In fact, in a 2011 poll of possible 2012 voters conducted for the Center of American Progress, almost a third of the participants supported protecting LGBT people from employment discrimination.

According to a news report, the great evolution in public opinion should push the Senate to pass a comprehensive ENDA.  Apparently, its chances of being passed are more complicated in the House. Hopefully, several republicans who now control that chamber, including some opponents of same sex marriage, may be accountable in pushing the proposition that would ban workplace discrimination on LGBT.

It was in 1987 when Barney Frank broke his silence on his gender orientation and declared to be a gay. He was actually the first member of Congress to do it so voluntarily. In February 2009, two members of the Congress, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jared Polis of Colorado subsequently declared themselves as gays.

Meanwhile, a Los Angeles employment lawyer claimed that whatever the sexual orientation or gender of an employee or an applicant, it should not be a reason for firing or refusing to hire a qualified worker.

Posted in employment discrimination.

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