Coming Out at Work Is Still Risky for Some
One of the big questions this year is whether a Republican-led Congress will even approach a bill to protect LGBT people against workplace discrimination. For the last four decades, nearly every Congress has introduced legislation to provide protection against discrimination or bias on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, to no avail. LGBT workers face discrimination that makes it harder to find and keep good jobs, according to a 2014 Movement Advancement Project report. In fact, LGBT workers report a wage gap as high as $24,000 versus their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts, according to the report. For queer people of color, the gap is particularly problematic. According to the Center for American Progress, 32 percent of black male same-sex couples and 28 percent of female same-sex couples live in poverty, compared to just 13 percent of black different-sex married couples.
Despite a Republican-controlled Congress where House Speaker John Boehner has already made it clear that he sees no need to debate a bill that would protect LGBT workers, members of the House and Senate are already working on introducing one again. Out Colorado representative Jared Polis has been an early proponent of a wider-reaching bill that would ensure all LGBT Americans are protected against discrimination. Meanwhile, fewer than half of the states in the U.S. have such protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers, and even fewer extend workplace protections for transgender workers.
Stephen Peters, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, told The Advocate last week that the organization will lobby for a federal LGBT nondiscrimination bill that addresses "discrimination in credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service, and public accommodations."
While corporate America has become increasingly welcoming of LGBT employees and leaders, Apple's Tim Cook is still the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Martine Rothblatt, who is transgender, is the CEO of United Therapeutics Corp., which is on Forbes' Best Small Companies list). It should also be noted that there are 24 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 (so less than 5 percent of the list). Nonetheless, Cook's coming-out was a significant step, as Apple is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The increasing LGBT-friendliness of the nation's biggest companies is evident as more businesses earn perfect scores on HRC's Corporate Equality Index.