Despite what some Republican leaders claim, employment discrimination is very real for LGBT people, even in 2013. While House Speaker John Boehner said he sees "no basis or need" for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, these 11 LGBT people who were fired could have had their livelihoods spared if it was illegal nationally to fire someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA would not extend to individuals employed by religious institutions. But a national standard declaring it unacceptable to fire an employee on the basis of his or her sexual orientation or gender expression could readily have a ripple effect, even on those employers.
Currently, in 29 states — including some where the people featured on the following pages were employed — it's perfectly legal to fire someone because an employer thinks they might be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In 33 states, someone can be fired for being transgender, and those employees have no legal recourse to contest their dismissal. Here is a look at just a handful of the reported firings of LGBT people, based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Bev Kearney, track coach at the University of Texas until January:
Bev Kearney, a six-time NCAA championship-winning track coach at the University of Texas, was forced out of her position for having had a relationship with a female athlete in 2002. Kearney, a black lesbian, was put on leave at the end of 2012, but decided to leave her position officially in January after news surfaced about her relationship with the female athlete (who, at the time, was of age). In March, Kearney filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, contending that the school treated her differently than it did a former assistant football coach, Major Applewhite, who had an inappropriate relationship with a student trainer during a bowl trip in 2008. Applewhite was reprimanded by the athletic director, and his pay was frozen for a year.
"We think there is a double standard at the University of Texas, giving men the opportunity to engage in inappropriate relationships without fear of being caught or punished,” Kearney's attorney Derek Howard told the Dallas Voice in March.
Her case has yet to reach a conclusion, though the Dallas Voice notes that Texas law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.