Making discrimination against gays illegal in the workplace

Is Being Gay a Choice? Should It Be Protected at Work?

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Is Being Gay a Choice? Should It Be Protected at Work?

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Making discrimination against gays illegal in the workplace

Table of Contents

Can You Be Fired for Being Gay?

I usually am proud to live in the state of Oklahoma.  It’s a friendly place filled with great football and wonderful towns and history.  It’s a place I’ve called my home for the last seven years.  It’s a state that I feel safe outside of severe weather and tornados, but today I am ashamed.  Ashamed to be an Oklahoman.  Ashamed because Oklahoma Representative James Lankford said in an interview (video shown above) that being gay shouldn’t be protected against workplace discrimination because being gay is a choice.

This choice Lankford describes is like deciding on your favorite flavor of ice cream, your decision to be religious, or the decision you might make as an adult to have sex and with whom.  These all are all choices that we, as individuals make in this great country and are free to.  They are our right, and these choices are protected.  These are choices that are protected as part of workplace discrimination.

A bi-partisan effort is taken place in the Senate for what they are calling the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would make discrimination against gays in the workplace as well as restriction from clubs and activities illegal.  48% of employees who are gay, aren’t out in the workplace likely out of fear of being fired, reprimanded, or retaliated against.

We All Make Choices but Being Gay is Not One of Them

Your choice to eat ice cream.

 It is a choice and this choice is sometimes reflected in a medical diagnosis for those who are diagnosed as Type II Diabetic.  As an employer, the law keeps me from terminating you as a result of this diagnosis which sometimes starts with a choice, but sometimes genetics wins over your choice to eat healthy, exercise each day, or avoid sugary foods.  It’s still a choice with far reaching consequences and effects.

Your choice to practice religion.

Title VII provides employees with the opportunity to be free from religious discrimination at work while also having the opportunity to take time off work to practice our religion.  This choice is a decision not genetic but a right for employees throughout the US.

Your choice to have sex.  

 As a law abiding citizen you have this right to make this decision.  A decision that for me and my husband led to the birth of our daughter.  While pregnant, I am protected against workplace discrimination and entitled to time off work as a new mother according to the FMLA.  It is against the law for me to be fired or disciplined because of that simple fact.

Being Gay at Work Should Be a Protected Class

Recently, the EEOC announced that transgender employees are protected from discrimination at work.  But according to Representative Lankford, a choice like this should not be protected.  Because it is in fact a choice.  I don’t often sit on my soapbox much here on Blogging4Jobs, but if you have followed the blog over the last several years you would know my family’s story.  Everyone deserves to feel comfortable, safe, and happy at work free from worry about being judged or treated different when all they want is to earn a living and do their work which is why I believe that employees who are gay should be protected from idiots like Lankford if only at work.

I whole-heartedly support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  Don’t employees deserve a workplace free of distraction, discrimination, and retaliation regardless of their sexual preferences just like religion?  I’m making a choice to support making discrimination against gays illegal in the workplace.  What’s your stance?

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  1. Being a diabetic, I’m gonna have to call out your ignorance as well on your argument. Being a diabetic is nothing like being gay and that makes me angry that you use a platform like this in some “professional” manner to make an argument your not an expert in. I will say that if your analogy is correct, then why don’t they make medicine to “fix” being gay as well.

    1. Thanks for the comment mystery commenter. My purpose of the metaphor was to generate discussion, and this is exactly what I wanted. Oh, but there are people who believe that being gay can be cured. I’m not one of them. People just need to be able to be themselves. I want people to live without fear or being harassed or fired at work as well as life. This bullying that is happening because someone is gay has to stop. People should not be made prisoner for this reason.

      Thank you for the discussion here. And I never said I was an expert. I’m just someone who cares and has seen how bigotry has impacted my own slice of life using my experience working in corporate HR for 10 plus years. I just have a platform in which to share my opinions and thoughts using the powers of social media and the Internet.


  2. @Replies Federal – and state-level – anti-discrimination laws were written by politicians (not necessarily experts on anything) who were both gay and not gay; Black and White; Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Atheists; etc. based upon input from constituents as well as interpretations of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Then there’ disability discrimination ( which I’m certain you can appreciate (I’m pretty both diabetics and non-diabetics had a hand in crafting the Rehabilitation Act of 1973).

    What we do in our personal life is choice; what we do at work is less our choice and more about including people who add value to the organization, its customers, and its ability to innovate and support products and services.

    Are you going to deny employment to a gay person who may be the person to find a permanent cure for diabetes?

    1. Congress makes decisions from expert analysis including academic and professional studies to draw stances on issues.

      I hardly believe that changing my attitudes, beliefs, or otherwise will change the fact I have a physical disability as compared to a social prejudice. Psychologists don’t really classify being gay as debilitating or a disability.

      I will say I think it’s an oversight to include healthcare and other things under marriage protections. they should be separate.

      Being an HR blog, I’m not even going to answer the last question. I’ll let the rules stand to speak for themselves.

      1. Are you sure we’re talking about the same Congress? Constituents hire pols – and fire them if they don’t do what constituents want them to do. Yes, “experts” have their input but to intimate that the process is all experts and expert studies is turning a blind eye at reality.

        You’re correct – no matter what you do, you are a diabetic – and if anyone had an issue with your diabetes at work and made an employment decision based upon your medical condition, there’d be hell to pay. But can you tell me – other than it being a case of prejudice – why it would be “fine” with you if a gay man/woman were let go simply because someone didn’t like their sexual proclivities?

        Can you tell me why it would be ok for a company to fire their top software developer/account executive/analyst because they are gay? Why should this NOT be protected by statutes?

  3. In the state of Oklahoma, would it not be difficult to fight this regardless, since we are an “at will” state, which as I understand it, gives an employer the ability to fire whomever, whenever without benefit of explanation. My understanding may be wrong, but that is what I have been told in the past. I am sure there are contract law issues that trump this, and being able to prove a pattern of abuse could provide grounds for a legal dispute also, but isn’t this one kind of a moot point here? Not arguing in Lankford’s favor, but just wondering how much difference it would make. Also, how does existing Federal law come into play with that issue of “at will” employment?
    I think my main question for anyone that would fight to keep a job where they were discriminated against in the first place, is why? I know that my life is far too short to be willing to fight that battle. I admit, I am rarely in a position to feel discriminated against, so my perspective on the issue is limited.

    1. Mark…”at will” is typically used to mean a separation as a result of poor performance, poor business results necessitating a reduction in force, and “bad fit”; these are the explanations that most companies offer upon separation.

      However, it’s the last part that gets companies into trouble; far too often in cases of discrimination there’s a smoking gun that can be used by any halfway competent attorney to remedy a situation.

      But your point of why fight when you’re not wanted is spot on…sometimes though, you have to lawyer up to obtain severance. It’s an ugly, uncomfortable process but if the law says don’t discriminate, don’t discriminate. On the other hand, perhaps it’s better to ask early on what the company’s policy is on LGBT employees…

  4. No blind eye being turned, however, my argument argues against the similarities which you just reified? Prejudice wasn’t my argument.

    We don’t say what something IS based on what it’s most similar to or like, we define things on their differences. The fallacy in the argument. Neither is it like eating ice cream which anyone couldn’t give a dang about.

  5. Unfortunately, MANY give a damn about private preferences (ice cream WAS only a metaphor) even though those preferences in NO WAY affect another’s life. If I don’t want pistachio, I’m not going to eat it. And you can’t make me.

    I am astounded and dismayed that this argument continues.

    Keep your religion and government out of my room and my womb.

  6. We need another protected class like we need a hole in the head. Should fat people be a protected class–they’re discriminated against? Should ugly people? Should short people? Tall people? Should women who own 20+ cats be a protected class? No one wants to hire the crazy cat lady right? What about people with glasses? What about people who graduate from Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma and the manager is an OU grad? What about Trekkies at SciFi conventions? The LGBT faces bias just like everyone else. Being a protected class only helps one class—LAWYERS. I’d rather advocate for hiring the best in class talent period, and just realize that every hiring manager has a bias. It’s up to the recuiters to help educate them.

    1. Rob, how many times have we talked about “average’ recruiters? Even so, this discussion is not just about “recruiting” but about “retaining” – and it’s the retaining piece that bugs me. Being a member of a protected class doesn’t protect them from NOT being hired or fired but does ensure that if they are not not hired or are fired it is for reasons of performance (and bad performance could also be as a result of them being assholes or missing too many days to attend LGBT events).

      Great recruiters DO help but not all can help.

  7. Howdy Rayanne…ah the beauty of America is that opinions – no matter if they are diametrically opposed to ours – are fodder for discussion (or not, in some people’s cases).

    Fortunately, your room and womb are areas of massive disagreement by politicians and constituents which is why elections are such passionate events; unfortunately, this is also true.

    I just wish people wouldn’t hide during discussions like this; makes me believe that the other person is hiding something or is ashamed of their position…

    1. Agree with your “hiding” theory wholeheartedly, Steve… I love having discussions when minds are open and respect of others is prevalent. The other kind…, well, they really aren’t “discussions” now, are they?


  8. Agree completely with your point Jess. The whole argument of we don’t need to protect anyone is not all the original, more like it’s 1960 and lots of white males are not liking that non-whites might be integrated via federal protection into their schools and businesses. Non-performance and job related employment actions should be made more difficult to defend, that is called keeping things fair.

    China, Cuba, Iran all have very limited protection in the screening and selection process… how is that working out? better? I’m not for more laws, we have many laws that need repealed immediately because they’re asinine, this doesn’t mean we just bury our head to some of the obvious employment protections required. Surely you could visit with some people with a disability and a veteran who appreciated and needed the protection.

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