In our immediately preceding blog post, we referred to “the next great battle” concerning gay rights in the United States (please see our July 7 entry). As termed in a recent Los Angeles Times article, that is “the expansion of federal civil rights laws to protect gays in the workplace and elsewhere.”
It is certainly true that last month’s historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling spells a watershed holding in the march of gay persons — specifically same-sex couples — toward full equality.
That marriage-related ruling does not extend to the workplace, though, where many gay, lesbian and transgender employees continue to experience discrimination based on sexual orientation. More than 20 percent of gay workers responding to a recent national poll stated that they have been on the receiving end of such discrimination at work.
Federal protections have been materially extended in recent years. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission now interprets federal law barring on-the-job sex discrimination to include gay and transgender workers. And President Obama recently inked an executive order that proscribes federal contractors from discriminating against potential hires based on sexual orientation.
Such protections are important but incomplete. The Times article notes that, owing to the lack of federal legislation that comprehensively bans discrimination against gay workers (a national ban operating uniformly in all municipalities and states across the country), only about half of all non-heterosexual workers in the United States are protected by anti-discrimination laws at the workplace.
In time, of course, that will change. Protective legislation is a focus currently in some congressional offices on Capitol Hill, and many gay rights’ advocates express confidence that prevailing tail winds in support of expanded protections for gay persons will bring positive change.
“It’s only a matter of time before that reality [firm and growing public support] catches up to Congress,” says one civil liberties advocate.