The workplace is a microcosm of society. As the battle over same-sex marriage rages in the United States, many people may not realize that there is also no consistent federal protection for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) individuals in the workplace. In fact, over half of US states have no laws on the books protecting LGBT from discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Illinois has discrimination laws in place protecting workers due to their sexual orientation, but there is no protection for government workers based on gender identity or gender expression.
One of the arguments for same-sex marriage is that when allowing LGBT to marry, they then have access to the same benefits as straight couples. They become eligible for survivor and spousal benefits for Social Security and pension benefits and they can claim spousal benefits for healthcare. So far, with the addition of Pennsylvania in the past week, 19 states plus the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage. Illinois law allowing same-sex marriage takes effect June 1, 2014, with civil unions already recognized via previous state legislation.
Because of these issues, not only is same-sex marriage a social concern, but also a labor concern. Several companies have expressed their views against same-sex marriage, the most notable being Chick-Fil-A, citing religion as a basis. Other companies, such as Amazon and Microsoft, embrace the issue and support same-sex marriage as an example of "doing the right thing."
But also lagging is the basic right of individuals to work in an environment free from discrimination and harassment because of their sexual preferences and/or gender identity. About 53% of LGBT workers hide their sexual orientation out of fear of losing their jobs. That could all change if current legislation in Congress is passed and signed into law by the president. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was presented to both houses of Congress in April 2013 and was passed in the US Senate in November 2013 with a bipartisan vote of 64-32. The bill would put federal regulations into place to protect LGBT from discrimination in the workplace.
Civil rights laws have been in place for years based on a person's race, their religion, their age and their disabilities, just to name a few. Now maybe the time has finally come for the LGBT community to be included.