Being LGBT in
America shouldn't be a job hazard and yet, today,
it's perfectly legal in 30 states to fire
someone just for being gay or lesbian--and
there's nothing you can do about it. If you're
transgender, you have no recourse in 38 states. Yet
according to a recent poll, 89% of Americans believe
that gay men and lesbians should have equal rights in
the workplace, and a majority believes the same for
certainly didn't prove true for Diane Schroer.
Schroer had a distinguished military career before she
transitioned, eventually becoming a colonel in the
Special Forces. Schroer logged 450 parachute jumps
into some of the world's most dangerous places and
received numerous decorations. She was chosen to lead
a classified national security operation and even
briefed Vice President Cheney on the global war on
from the military, Schroer decided it was finally time to
acknowledge being transgender and make the transition from
male to female. As a civilian, Schroer applied for a
job with a large federal agency library as a senior
terrorism research analyst. She received an offer
shortly after the interview and accepted the position.
starting, Schroer invited her new boss to lunch to explain
that she was transgender and would like to begin the job as
a woman. The next day, the director rescinded the
offer, saying Schroer wasn't a "good
fit." Our own government passed up the person it
deemed most qualified for a position to help combat
terrorism -- a person who spent 25 years in the
trenches fighting terrorists -- just because that person
happened to be transgender. (Video of Schroer can be
While there are
already federal protections against job discrimination on
the basis of race, sex, national origin, religion, age,
and disability, no uniform federal law protects LGBT
workers. But Congress is considering making a historic
change. Important legislation in the House of
Representatives, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,
would make it illegal for employers to make
discriminatory decisions about hiring, terminations,
promotions, and compensation based on sexual orientation
and gender identity.
some in Congress, fearful that they do not have enough
support to pass a bill that includes gender identity, have
begun advocating for a different bill, which
takes out gender identity protections. As a result,
the bill would cut out most transgender people and
threaten protections for gay men and lesbians who
don't conform to gender stereotypes. There is a
risk that courts will say a law banning only sexual
orientation discrimination offers no protection to men who
are fired because their employers think they are effeminate
and women who are fired because employers think them
too masculine. The law must be clear; it must protect
all LGBT employees. Leading organizations fighting for
LGBT protections, including the ACLU, have made clear that
they oppose taking away safeguards for an entire group
of individuals who regularly experience an
extraordinary -- often impoverishing -- level of
employment discrimination. It's critical now more
than ever that members of Congress understand that the
community is standing together for an inclusive law.
Congress has a
long history of protecting American workers. During the
last 50 years, when people were denied employment for
reasons unrelated to their skills in the workplace,
Congress responded by passing laws aimed at creating a
system truly based on employee merit. Our society has
and must continue to embrace the principle that arbitrary
considerations do not govern access to employment.
This should be no less true for LGBT workers.
It's now time for Congress to help bring lesbian, gay
-- and transgender -- employees out of the shadows at
work and pass real protections so that all workers who
stand side by side on the job are treated equally
under the law.
information on ENDA and for other stories of people who have
experienced workplace discrimination for being LGBT, please
see the ACLU's report "Working in the Shadows:
Ending Employment Discrimination for LGBT Americans,"
available at www.aclu.org.
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