When discussing gay rights, many people get so gripped up in talk of gay marriage and gay adoption that they fail to recognize that in many states gays and lesbians do not have the same basic rights as heterosexual citizens. While most citizens assume that the government protects all of its citizens against discriminatory practices in the workplace, this apparently is not the case. In fact, there are many states in which it is absolutely legal to victimize gays and lesbians in the place of work.
Depending on where you stay, it is commonly against the law to fire or refuse to hire someone due to gender, age, race or religion. However, most states do not have laws to protect people with different sexual orientation. In fact, in more than half of the states in this country, it is still legal for an employer to fire one of their employees just on the basis that they discovered that the employee was homosexual.
Studies have shown that eighty-five percent of Americans are not in favor of job discrimination based on sexual preference. Furthermore, sixty-one percent are in favor of a federal law being passed that prohibits discrimination against gays in the workplace. And yet, only a few states have passed anti- discrimination laws.
The following states have been progressive enough to pass laws in order to look after gays and lesbians from discrimination in the workplace: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, gays and lesbians who do not work in these states may go through serious consequences if they come out in the workplace. While many corporations and other organizations have come out with their own policies against workplace discrimination, there is no legal action that gays and lesbians can take if they are the victims of discrimination.
What does this mean for gays and lesbians? It means that gays and lesbians have got to handle the difficult decision of whether or not they can come out to their coworkers. Although this may not seem like such a big predicament, when you consider that many people spend eight or more hours a day in the office, five days a week, this is a huge amount of time to spend lying to the people around you about who you are. Also, a lot of jobs and careers insist on people to bring their significant others and family members to employer-sponsored events. In these cases, gays and lesbians would be unable to bring their life-partners or adopted children to work-related functions.
A lot of people think that it is ideal to wait for a slow change of policy over time, so that the gay rights movement will persuade employers and other corporations to create anti- discrimination policies on their own. However, this allows the government to turn a blind eye to what is very obviously a question of basic civil rights. Even if you aren’t a gay rights activist or someone who is politically active, it’s imperative to communicate with your senators and congressmen and ensure that they know that comparable rights for gays is an important issue.