Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Why is job discrimination the last piece of the gay-rights puzzle?
First Published Nov 13 2013 10:02 am • Last Updated Nov 13 2013 10:02 am

Same-sex marriage is legal in almost 16 states and gays can serve openly in the military, but a business can still fire someone over their sexual orientation.

That’s almost exactly the opposite of what the gay-rights movement thought would happen two decades ago.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Even as activists have made major progress in changing public opinion and advancing their goals through Congress, state legislatures and the courts, a bill to ban discrimination by employers remains just out of reach.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate last week on a bipartisan vote, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats, but it is unlikely to get very far in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

Supporters say that has created a glaring contradiction in how gays and lesbians are treated by the government.

"There is definitely a synapse connection problem," said Fred Sainz, vice president of communications and marketing at the gay-rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

The irony is that ENDA, as the anti-discrimination bill is often called, was long thought by supporters to be an easier goal than same-sex marriage or allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

Activists have different explanations for why it has stalled.

Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, co-director of the gay-rights group GetEQUAL, said one problem is that polls show many Americans think that a law protecting gays and lesbians at work is already on the books.

"I don’t know any other issue in this country that had this broad kind of acceptance," he said. "It shouldn’t be controversial, but D.C. makes it controversial."


story continues below
story continues below

Grassroots support is critical for a social movement, he said, and the gay-rights movement is just beginning to grow roots.

Many trace the gay-rights movement back to the infamous Stonewall riots, which occurred after police raided a gay bar in New York City in 1969. But activists say that public support came about more recently as more and more people came out of the closet.

Today, nine out of every 10 Americans say they have gay acquaintances. A little more than half of Americans support federal benefits for gays and want to see same-sex marriage legalized for the whole country, according to March and July Gallup polls.

Even still, organizers haven’t quite figured out how to harness that support into legislative action.

"I don’t know that we’ve hit yet that secret formula that will result in enduring legal protections," Sainz said.

That’s because the federal government is about a decade behind American culture — another reason ENDA hasn’t become law, said Ian Thompson, a legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, who urged patience among supporters.

"Particularly when you’re dealing with civil rights laws, these do not happen overnight," he said.

But Sousa-Rodriguez of GetEQUAL, an organization that is often critical of mainstream gay-rights advocacy strategies, said advocates are just as behind the times as the government is when it comes to arguing for equality.

He said the movement’s supporters have made too many compromises on gay-rights legislation and focused their efforts on state issues when they should have been lobbying for broad equality at the federal level.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.