Passage in the Senate was unprecedented, and it signaled much about what still matters in our politics.
According to a new report released today — A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color — lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Latinos are among the most disadvantaged workers in America. This groundbreaking report by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and a broad spectrum of civil rights organizations finds that LGBT Latinos face extraordinarily high rates of unemployment and poverty due to discrimination coupled with a lack of workplace protections, unequal job benefits and taxation, and unsafe, under-resourced U.S. schools.
Contrary to some stereotypes about gays and lesbians, LGBT workers are more racially diverse than the general population and also more likely to be raising children. In a 2012 Gallup poll, one in three LGBT respondents (33 percent) identified themselves as people of color, compared to 27 percent of non-LGBT respondents. In addition, data from the 2010 Census show that LGBT people of color are more likely to be raising children than white LGBT people; fully one-third of Latinos in same-sex couples are raising children.
Unfortunately, these Latino families face significant hurdles to finding good jobs that provide fair wages and benefits. A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers presents the latest data showing troubling workplace outcomes for LGBT Latino workers:
• LGBT Latinos are at high risk of becoming homeless. An estimated 20-40 percent of homeless youth in the U.S. identify as LGBT or believe they may be LGBT. One study found that among homeless youth who identify as gay or lesbian, 26 percent were Latino.
• LGBT Latinos are at significant risk of being unemployed. LGBT people of color have higher rates of unemployment compared to non-LGBT people of color. A 2012 Gallup poll found that 14 percent of LGBT Latinos were unemployed compared to 11 percent of non-LGBT Latinos.
• LGBT Latinos at significant risk of poverty. Research shows that LGBT people of color are at a much higher risk of poverty than non-LGBT people. For example, Latino transgender people are five times as likely to live in extreme poverty compared to the general Latino population (28 percent vs. 5 percent).
• LGBT Latinos Less Likely to Have Health Insurance. A 2012 Gallup poll found that only 61 percent of Latino LGBT workers had health insurance, which compares to 69 percent of Latino people in the general population.
• LGBT Latinos Less Likely to be Out at Work. A 2009 survey found that only 18 percent of Latino LGBT workers were out to everyone at work compared to 29 percent of non-Latino white LGBT workers.
We must fix this broken bargain for LGBT Latinos to help ensure that they are treated fairly no matter where they work. The Broken Bargain report details a series of policy recommendations, and thankfully, the U.S. Senate took a first step last week by passing the long overdue Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The bill had an impressive bipartisan vote of 64-32, and if it were allowed to pass the House of Representatives, it would create federal LGBT workplace protections parallel to the protections against anti-Latino discrimination that have existed for nearly 50 years.
While we wait on Congress to act, President Obama has the legal authority to sign an executive order requiring the companies that profit from federal contracts to adopt LGBT workplace protections. Similar executive orders already protect Latino workers from discrimination. LGBT contractors deserve the same protections, and we urge President Obama to take action.
As we push forward to have ENDA signed into law, it’s particularly important to note the strong leadership from national Latino organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and National Council of La Raza. We realize that ENDA would not completely level the playing field for LGBT Latino workers. However, ENDA would go a long way to ensure that LGBT workers have the protections they need from harassment and discrimination due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Although Congress has yet to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a majority of big American companies are on the leading edge of transgender inclusion in the workplace.
When compounded with race, sexual orientation, and gender identity, Black LGBT people are particularly vulnerable to a lack of workplace protections. When intersected, racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia can create disparate job bias against Black LGBT people. Frequently, Black LGBT workers are among some of the most marginalized people due to lack of workplace policies and employers who discriminate. Due to race-based discrimination, LGBT animus, lack of workplace protections, and minimal help to get out of poverty, LGBT workers can find themselves in a precarious situation. These are only a few impediments that prevent Black LGBT people from finding and keeping a steady job – one that allows them to financially provide for themselves and their family.
Though most Americans support transgender protections in the workplace, House Speaker John Boehner has not shown any initiative to get a full vote for the bill.
ENDA has a problem: a disturbing religious exemption that has been included in the bill in one form or another ever since it was introduced in 1994. A Catholic school teacher who’s done a great job for years could still be fired under ENDA if the principal discovers that she is a lesbian. That’s abhorrent.
Yet again, the Catholic Church proves that its anti-LGBT crusade extends far beyond the obstruction of equal marriage rights.
Gayconomics 101: Why the Latest LGBT Rights Legislation Could Be the 'ENDA' the Road for Some Job Seekers
ENDA, designed to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, appears to have been designed with the best of intentions. But like ’80s fashion or tequila shots, what sounds good in theory can have unintended consequences.
Help make sure no one has to choose between success and coming out of the closet. Contact your Senators to tell them why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is so important, and ask them to support the bill today.
Learn about barriers and challenges faced by LGBT workers of color in this new report by MAP, CAP, the FIRE Initiative, Freedom to Work, HRC and NBJC; in partnership with Color of Change, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, LULAC, National Action Network, MALDEF, NQAPIA, Out & Equal and SEIU.
The speaker of the House told reporters he doesn’t see any reason to enact federal laws protecting workers from getting fired for being LGBT.
LGBT-led households should not, in this modern era, be without full and comprehensive anti-discrimination protections in the American workplace.
"A religion that says it’s alright to discriminate… I have a real question about the underlying basis of it"…