After DOMA: The New Battle For Gay Rights At Work

2 gay males kissing after supreme court decisionPundits have been busy analyzing the impact of the Supreme Court's decisions, overturning the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and letting a ruling stand against California's Proposition 8. Whether other states will legalize gay marriage and how many couples will marry is still unclear. But one thing is clear: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans still don't have equal rights when it comes to the workplace.

According to Gregory Nevins, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, the LGBT legal advocacy group, "not all that much" will change when it comes to LGBT Americans in the workplace. LGBT workers still aren't covered by the federal government's anti-discrimination laws for the workplace, which are spelled out in Title VII of the the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As the law currently stands, discrimination is only banned on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex and national origin." So LGBT workers have no protection if they're bullied or passed over for a promotion. And "there was nothing in the Supreme Court rulings that will change how courts interpret Title VII," according to Nevins.

But the marriage rulings do show how the courts are motivated to make sure that LGBT Americans receive rights and protections enjoyed by heterosexual Americans. So in the wake of the announcement here's where things stand -- and what to expect.

1. You can be fired for being gay. Only 21 states have passed legislation to protect LGBT workers from discrimination. So if you live in one of the 29 other states, "an employer can actually walk up to you and say you are being fired for being gay, and there's nothing you can do about it," according to James Esseks, the director of the LGBT Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. (In 33 states, the same is true for transgender workers). In fact, Lambda Legal says that there are some 900 to 1,000 cases each year in which workers claim they've been fired because of their sexual or gender identity.

2. Activists push for anti-discrimination law. Gay rights groups say that they will now focus on the long-stalled, Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The bill has been introduced every year in Congress since 1974, with the exception of 1994, to no avail. ENDA would explicitly prohibit discrimination in hiring, firing and other employment matters on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for all non-religiously affiliated employers with more than 15 workers.

After the Supreme Court rulings, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed, "I will soon bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the floor of the Senate for a vote." The vote is expected to take place after the July 4 recess. But many say the likelihood of passage is still slim. So far, ENDA has 53 confirmed co-sponsors in the Senate.

Activists remain hopeful that President Obama will issue an executive order outlawing the discrimination for federal workers. As recently as June 13, President Obama said during a White House reception, "we need to get that passed. I want to sign that bill." But as the gay-oriented newspaper, the Washington Blade pointed out, Obama did not actually mention ENDA by name while speaking at that event.

3. Employers aren't waiting for legal change. Many private employees are making their own rules; 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies specifically ban discrimination against gay employees, according to Quartz. This means that these firms offer the exact same benefits to straight and LGBT workers, including offering medical coverage to same-sex spouses. (The figure stands at 57 percent of companies for transgender workers, according to the Human Rights Campaign.)

4. The overturning of DOMA grants gay workers new workplace rights. Married gay workers will now be covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, and so they will be able to take off up to 12 weeks each year of unpaid leave to care for their spouse, just like straight workers. Married gay workers will also be able to share health coverage with a spouse and file joint tax returns, as NBC News reports. The catch with all these new rights, however, is that they will only apply in states where gay marriage has been made legal.

5. Federal workers who are gay now have full legal protections when it comes to benefits. The repeal of DOMA promises to have the biggest impact on federal workers. As a result of the ruling, all LGBT employees for the federal government and their spouses will be able to take advantage of all the benefits and anti-discrimination policies that straight workers enjoy. This is true even if they live in states that have not made gay marriage legal.

6. More change is coming. LGBT advocates are confident that the Supreme Court rulings will help their campaigns gain steam. "The ruling won't fundamentally change workplace equality and discrimination laws," said Esseks, of the ACLU. "But we know greater equality begets greater equality. And the big picture is clear -- there's a reevaluation of what Americans think of gay people. And they are increasingly seeing them as people."

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July 08 2013 at 5:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ENDA has been languishing in Congress for decades. It's time to clean up this discrimination mess once and for all. It is truly unfortunate that employment is NOT a "non-discimination zone", but as long as religious zealots continue to bang the drum in their bigoted approach to gays in the workplace, it apparently is going to require a Federal statute to make it so (much as it did with racial discimination in the 60's).

The time is now; the "iron is hot". America has an incredible opportunity to sweep this regrettable example of NON-AMERICAN behavior out the door! Won't it be wonderful when America actually IS the "land of the free"? And what better time than the 4th of July? Hurrah for the Red, White and Blue!

July 01 2013 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have worked with many gay men and women over the years, the positions were in sales. They all prospered as any of the other workers, a couple were promoted to managment. They did thier job, mixed with all of us, no problems. Like any other group a few are never happy. Maybe this is being driven by the lawyers, just think of how many more divorce cases for them to prosper.

July 01 2013 at 5:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Gays are the Blacks of the 1950's. They'll never be satisfied!!

July 01 2013 at 4:49 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to boythy1's comment

Not with "second-class citizenship"-- you're damned RIGHT we won't be satisfied with that! Would you? Oops-- your hypocrisy is showing...

July 01 2013 at 7:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"And the big picture is clear -- there's a reevaluation of what Americans think of gay people. And they are increasingly seeing them as people."
Simply not true. The more you shove them in my face the worse my revulsion gets. I am tired of being slammed with same-sex couples kissing each other everywhere I turn - I won't get used to it. It absolutely sickens normal heterosexual people. Note that I said NORMAL. No, not a homophobe. I do not fear them. I just find them vomitable.

July 01 2013 at 3:18 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to beckeye5's comment

Uh-huh, uh-huh (yawning).

July 01 2013 at 4:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

How incredibly selfish and backward of you! We, too, are "tired of being 'slammed' with opposite-sex couples kissing each other everywhere we turn". It is just as "abnormal" to US as WE are to you! So tell you what: we'll cut it out when YOU do. I won't be holding my breath-- because heterosexuals are no more capable of completely decorous behavior than anyone ELSE.

And you're right: you're not a "homophobe"-- you're a BIGOT! And a self-righteous bigot, at that! How sad for your parents...

July 01 2013 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


July 01 2013 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to occ1020's comment

Do let us know the next time He talks to you. In the meantime, your comments are nothing but hypocritical babble-- pretty much what we've come to EXPECT from the religious right...

July 01 2013 at 7:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Most gays i know have a double set of standards when it comes to dealing with heterosexuals whether want to admit it or not even if they feel the heterosexual is not prejudiced towards them. It is okay for society to come down on heterosexual displays of sex but society is bigoted if it does the same for homosexual displays of affection. if you are obviously heterosexual and a gay keeps hitting on you and you complain then they whine you are a bigot. yes, there are plenty of obvious double standards in play and it is more about the homosexuals than heterosexuals. It is about leveling the playing field and overturning DOMA was just the start because the bigots are not who you think they are.

July 01 2013 at 2:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to jrp1947's comment
James G. Banks

Sad but true. It's a shame that homosexuals want rights that would far exceed being equal. Sexual orientation should not even be a discussion in the work place. The only way for your boss to know is if you tell him or her. I never tell my boss what seual orientation I am because it is none of his business. Homosexuals want everyone to cater to their whims, they want everyone to change for them, and they wnat everyone to be gay, or else if you are not gay, then you should have no rights. There is no equality when gays want equality.

July 01 2013 at 2:58 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to James G. Banks's comment

I have never found those statements to be true. Never. So where do you live, where that is happening?
Rights you see as beyond equal? Do heteros discuss their relationships with their spouses in the workplace? YES. So are you saying you prefer the don't ask/don't tell policy? That's not going to fly anymore.

July 01 2013 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Isn't that hair shirt getting just a bit tight? Exactly what gay "whim" have you had to accommodate... that YOU don't expect an equal accommodation for youself? How have you been asked to "change"? What "rights" are gays asking for that YOU don't EXPECT for yourself? What a pile of blarney!

July 01 2013 at 7:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Bullsh!t. Please provide a SINGLE example where a "gay person" has "come down on you" for heterosexual displays of "affection". Don't be absurd. Actually, we kind of LIKE to watch your mating rituals; it's kind of like visiting the monkey house at the zoo...

But don't worry. No one will accuse you of having a "double standard"-- because you obviously have NO standards, at all!

July 01 2013 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So, if the guy in the UK got fired for offering to pick up bacon sandwiches, and one guy was Muslim, and "offended" by his offer, can the gay guy get fired because someone else in the office is "offended" by him talking about his boyfriend?

July 01 2013 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to kate's comment
dee lightner

Personally, i'd be really happy if ALL person al chit-chat stopped in the work place! Maybe a lot more WORK would get done. And I mean people of ALL sexual orientations. If they all stopped chatting about what went on at home, what they did over the weekend, their kids, their pets, their cars,what kind of personal problems they are having, what money issues they have, what's going on with every single member of their families etc, etc, etc, just think of the amount of actual WORK that could be accomplished!!! And actually, if that happened no one could be "offended" at all, because no one wiuld be privy to every single aspect of another person's life!!!

July 01 2013 at 2:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

He'll (she"ll) scratch your eyes out.

July 01 2013 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wy is it that anytime something comes up about the LGBT community there has to be some of the homophobes that cannot accept people for what or the way they are and have to start calling names like diviat, pervert and God only knoww what else. I guess that the ones that do the name calling have nothing in their lives to do and the answer to that is "YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ASSOCIATE (NOTHING MANDATORY) with them and the ones that I know are some of the micest people you would want to meet if you wasn't so wrapped up in you pathetic homophobic mind. Get a life and if you can't try and make the best of the one you are now making people put up with.

July 01 2013 at 1:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to burkettmw's comment

Sorry, I know, but we just get tired of hearing about it.

July 01 2013 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to kate's comment

Yet you read the articles and post, and you're tired of hearing about it. Sure you are.

July 01 2013 at 4:31 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down

So let's just give EVERYONE equal rights, and THEN you won't have to "get tired of hearing about it" any more. I bet you really "got tired of hearing about" racial equality, too. The NERVE of those people: expecting to be treated the same way YOU are! Well I never!

You DO understand what a putz you are being, don't you?

July 01 2013 at 7:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

What a sick and perverted World we live in today.

July 01 2013 at 1:42 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to J's comment

You perceive what you believe, I perceive a beautiful world!

Love & Light

July 01 2013 at 5:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You're welcome to leave at any time. In fact, with your attitude, it would be preferable... Let's start up "the Rapture"!

July 01 2013 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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