Equality Can't Wait
This Pride Month & Beyond, We Need Safe & Inclusive Workplaces for ALL
Biden Administration, Culture, Equity, LGBTQIA+, Private Sector, Public Policy
As Pride Month comes to a close, it’s evident that the lives and contributions of our LGBTQIA+ community deserve to be celebrated every day — not just in June or in moments of unrest or tragedy. Over the past few decades, LGBTQIA+ folks and those allied with them have won major victories — most prominently, recognizing same-sex marriage as a rule of law — but there’s still a lot of work ahead.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 40 percent of LGBTQIA+ people experience workplace conflict including discrimination. This is despite the 2020 Supreme Court ruling saying LGBTQIA+ individuals are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
For instance, Christine Leonard was fired from her job at a church following speculation about her sexuality and a relationship with a coworker. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that there was probable cause that Leonard was discriminated against based on her gender identity and perceived sexual orientation. Leonard declined to settle the matter and has filed a lawsuit in federal court with the help of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund.
This incident follows the 2012 Supreme Court ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical v. EEOC, a case that ruled religious groups and leaders are exempt from the discrimination laws and, in this case, exempt from being held accountable for firing LGBTQIA+ workers. This is one of countless examples of why centering the experiences and leadership of LGBTQIA+ people in our fights against systemic oppression, particularly those happening in our workplaces, cannot be optional.
Founder and Executive Director of March Against Revenge Porn and LGBTQIA+ advocate Leah Juliett works to ensure that the things they and so many others have experienced while trying to earn a living are no longer commonplace.
“I've spent my life working in places that misgender and utilize abusive tactics to make me feel lesser because of my gender — that's why I've ensured that my nonprofit, March Against Revenge Porn, is actively fighting against the systems of bias that seek to harm LGBTQIA+ folks. Our nation's most marginalized communities deserve to live freely and openly without fear of retribution. Until our world is welcoming, we must demand spaces that can meet our needs.”
Leah Juliett (they/them)
Founder and Executive Director of March Against Revenge Porn and LGBTQIA+ Advocate
In 2017, the Department of Justice rescinded federal guidance that allowed students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Additionally, the Trump administration banned transgender people from serving in the military, a move that changed the precendent of discrimination from not just firing workers — but preventing them from holding a job or serving in the first place. Trans individuals, and Black trans people in particular, are under attack across the nation. This year has already been dubbed the worst year for the LGBTQIA+ community as lawmakers in more than 33 states have introduced legislation against trans youth in sports, and bills banning minors from accessing gender-affirming medical care — some of which have been enacted into law and are facing legal challenges.
State Senator Sarah McBride — who led the passage of legislation in Delaware banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, insurance, and public accommodations — offers this advice to employers:
“I think the first thing, frankly, that’s critical in recruiting diverse talent, including people of every gender identity, is ensuring that you proactively take the steps to make your workplace safe and welcoming for all kinds of people. That means having clear non-discrimination policies; it means ensuring that, should you provide health insurance, your health insurance includes the varying needs of all your potential employees. It means adopting policies like paid family and medical leave that includes the range of different kinds of families and medical needs that your employees might have, including LGBTQ[IA+] people and families.”
Sarah McBride (she/her)
First Trans State Senator in U.S. History
With a new administration at the helm, there is a lot of work ahead to reverse these discriminatory policies and prevent overrulings in the future. President Biden has used his executive authority to eliminate systematic barriers to diversity, barring discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender idenity, as well as making a strong commitment to racial and gender equity. But a future president could easily reverse this much-needed guidance with the stroke of a pen. That’s why we must enshrine equality into law through an act of Congress.
Earlier this year, the Equality Act passed the House of Representatives — marking an important step toward protecting LGBTQIA+ people and closing dangerous gaps in civil rights laws. But the Act is currently sitting in the Senate, where its future is uncertain.
“The Equality Act guarantees sweeping civil rights legislation for the LBGTQ[IA]+ community, people can still be denied housing, employment, education, and that’s why civil rights legislation is so important to this community.”
Chasten Buttigieg (he/him)
Teacher, Writer, and LGBTQIA+ Rights Advocate
At TIME’S UP, we strongly believe discrimination of any kind can’t exist in our workplaces. Reducing challenges related to gender identity and sexual orientation for workers should consistently be a priority for all employers, not just during Pride Month. We strive every day to be better allies, advocates, and a place for resources and assistance. Our work will never stop until no one lives in fear of being retaliated against at work because of who they are or who they love. It’s never been more important to advocate for these communities than today.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), GLAAD, and many other organizations advocating for LGBTQIA+ representation and acceptance are mobilizing people to urge Congress to pass this legislation once and for all. Sign HRC’s petition to pass the Equality Act here and call your senators via the congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121. Equality can’t wait.