Welcome to Pride Month, where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities celebrate their unique cultural identities, reflect on their gains, collectively bow their heads in respect for the struggles that have been overcome and discuss the changes that still need to be made.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which is the first well-known pushback by LGBTQ people against systemic police harassment. Many people mark that as the big turning point where people started to question why, exactly, LGBTQ people should be subjected to harassment and discrimination.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been as much progress in the last 50 years as people may have hoped — although the community does have one long-standing ally in its fight for equal rights: Labor unions often protect workers when the federal or state laws fall short.
Currently, there are no federal protections specifically aimed to prevent discrimination against homosexual and trans workers. While the Obama administration considered discrimination against trans workers to be a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Trump administration does not. Although California prohibits workplace discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity (including those who are non-binary), at least 28 states still offer no (or sharply limited) protections. Two of those states even have laws on the books forbidding nondiscrimination laws against LGBTQ people.
Even though California legally prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, there’s no guarantee that an individual employer will obey the law. Most are smart enough to act in subtle ways — although some will let their overt biases show without even bothering to hide it. Moving forward, it’s important to continue the fight against workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexuality, wherever possible.