When Legislation Supports Discrimination

In The Spotlight

On February 26, one week after the  Arizona State Senate passed SB 1062, Republican Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to gay patrons for religious reasons.  The rejected law, which would have permitted discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, further brings into light the challenges that Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) continue to face across the nation.
Even though the United States has made significant progress recently toward dismantling institutionalized discrimination, the Arizona proposal, which was accompanied by similar proposals in other states that were not ultimately passed, is a reminder that serious bigotry toward LGBT Americans still exists, even at the legislative level. A recent report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) highlights Congress’ failure to protect people from employment discrimination, specifically focusing on LGBT service members and veterans. While Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, no other significant steps to extend protections to LGBT service members have come from our federal legislative branch since.
The CAP report further examines how the federal government has made efforts to combat unemployment for veterans,while overlooking the needs of  LGBT people, who as civilians experience significantly high unemployment rates and workplace discrimination. As it currently stands, there is no federal legislation prohibiting employment discrimination that is based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Without protection, the unemployment rate as well as as the rate of workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans may continue to rise.

Direct Service Implications

Legislative and policy gaps that fail to address discrimination across various settings have significantly contributed to the continued struggles of the LGBT community. While the federal and some state governments have made progress dismantling legislation that specifically alienates LGBT Americans, more must be done.
In regards to workplace discrimination, direct service providers must continue to advocate on behalf of their clients as well as the LGBT community. Even though government can be slow to act, organizations can adapt their own workplace nondiscrimination policies. Lambda Legal and the Human Rights Campaignhave excellent resources to inform and guide decisionmakers on adapting HR policies to include protections for LGBT employees and clients. Out & Equal: Workplace Advocates also provides extensive information on LGBT workplace discrimination, policy recommendations, and resources designed to take a direct approach to coping with the challenges LGBT Americans face in the work place.

Courtesy of McSilver Institute of Poverty Policy and Research who has kindly given SJS permission to syndicate this piece.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles listed in the Policy News Briefs are not necessarily the views of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research or NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. If you have comments or suggestions about this service, contact us at 212-998-5937 or simply reply to this email.

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