Pride Month: A History of LGBTQ Rights in the Workplace

Published on

June 22, 2018

This Pride Month, we can celebrate all that has been accomplished over time to improve LGBTQ rights in the workplace, but we can't forget the long way still to go.

Wins for LGBTQ workers were once small and infrequent, and often only narrowly applicable. The individuals who fought for recognition and protection did so in a country where the president (Eisenhower, in 1953) had banned homosexuals from working for the federal government. A reported 800 workers resigned with thousands more eventually forced to leave their jobs, and the rule lasted for two decades. Read on to learn how dedicated activists made strides for the LGBTQ community.

  • 1973Lambda Legal, a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people through impact litigation, is formed. Its first legal fight is defending and winning the right to operate as a non-profit in the New York Supreme Court.
  • 1975 – A federal gay rights bill is introduced to counter discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bill goes to the Judiciary Committee but is never brought for consideration.
  • 1975 – After revealing his sexual orientation to a commanding officer, technical sergeant Leonard P. Matlovich, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star-receiving Vietnam veteran, is forcibly discharged from the Air Force. Five years later, in 1980, the Court of Appeals overturns the dismissal awarding Matlovich back pay and a retroactive promotion.
  • 1981 – Lambda Legal challenge a US military antigay discrimination policy and win an honorable discharge and financial settlement for gay US Naval Academy graduate, Vernon Berg.
  • 1982 – Wisconsin is the first state to pass a law against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • 1993 – President Clinton signs a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ policy which allows homosexuals to serve in the military – but only if they are not open about their sexual orientation.
  • 1993 – Lambda Legal win a case requiring New York City to provide equal benefits to domestic partners of city employees and dependent children.
  • 1993 – Minnesota passes the Human Rights Act and becomes the first state to ban employment discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • 1995 – President Clinton signs an executive order forbidding the Federal Government from denying security clearances to homosexuals because of their sexual orientation.
  • 1998 – President Clinton signs an executive order amending earlier legislation to stop discrimination based on sexual orientation in the competitive service of the federal civilian workforce.
  • 2002 – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) launches their Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a tool to rate workplaces on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer equality. The first CEI rated employers on seven criteria that remain the basis for a scoring system still in place today.
  • 2005 – The California Supreme Court rules that businesses in the state must provide the same benefits to registered domestic partners as they offer spouses.
  • 2011 – ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is repealed.
  • 2012 – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules that the federal discrimination law will now protect employees based on gender identity.
  • 2014 – President Barack Obama signs an executive order making it illegal to fire or discriminate against employees of federal contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In particular, the EO prohibits discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government.
  • 2015 – The EEOC states that under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and should be prohibited.
  • 2015 – The Boy Scouts of America update a policy to allow openly gay leaders and employees.
  • 2016 – The Pentagon lifts a ban on transgender people serving in the US military.
  • 2017 – Kimberly Hively sues Ivy Tech Community College for denying her employment with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the Civil Rights Act prohibits LGBTQ workplace discrimination.
  • 2017 – Donald Trump’s administration attempts to roll back the few existing protections for LGBTQ people with efforts to ban transgender troops and a ‘license to discriminate’ order that enables the government to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens in the name of religious freedom.
  • 2018 – The Second Circuit Court of Appeals makes a landmark ruling that discrimination by sexual orientation is sex discrimination.
  • 2018 – New Hampshire becomes the 20th state in the U.S. to prohibit discrimination based upon gender identity.

And where do we stand today? While some states have laws against LGBTQ discrimination and harassment, many do not. In 28 states an LGBTQ person can be fired just for not identifying as heterosexual, and in 30 states there is no law prohibiting the same treatment for being transgender.

Want to make a stand for gay rights in the workplace? Find out more about our pro-LGBTQ investment screen here.

SOURCE: CNN, LGBT Rights Milestones Fast Facts


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