Now that Congress has overcome obstructiveness and ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), and now that many states voted to recognize same-gender marriage, we need to keep in mind that it’s still perfectly legal in 29 states to fire someone because they’re gay—and you can fire someone over their gender identity in 34 states—according to the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Campaign.
The discriminatory laws and lack of protections in these states tell us that it is not good enough for your particular work area in your particular company to have a “safe workplace.” We need all workplaces to be “safe”—as well as “safe sidewalks,” “safe schoolyards” and “safe neighborhoods.” There must be universal, nationwide protection of civil and human rights for LGBT people in all 50 states.
The good news is that we now have openly gay veterans, with Combat Infantry Badges, Air Medals, Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze Stars walking proudly and openly in our society. No matter how red the state is, I don’t think it will be tolerable to treat combat veterans with such cruelty as to fire them for their orientation or gender identity. It’s a shame that we have to leverage veterans that way, but my hunch is that they won’t mind. I’ve never met a fellow veteran who didn’t agree with John Adams, who wrote, “Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.”
LGBT Rights: How Your Company Can Promote Diversity & Inclusion
Most of our readers work for large corporations, and this is directed at that group: I implore you to use your influence on your organizations to continue to push the political process in the right direction in all 50 states. If you want a basic, pragmatic argument, tell your corporate leaders that this is about workplace productivity, customer service and higher-quality market share. It’s about building the right relationships with LGBT people—and their heterosexual family members, friends and neighbors who care. Leverage your veteran and LGBT resource groups to send a clear message to top management: It is good business to promote the end of LGBT discrimination. It is in the best interest of shareholders, employees and customers that corporate leaders be proactive in making that reality.
Now is the time—we now have openly gay service people and veterans (they are there now and were always there, but not openly) and we have Ted Olson’s brilliant legal logic against California’s Proposition 8, all of which underscores this reality: LGBT civil and human rights do not impinge on the rights of any other group. They are in the logical progression of our American revolution, which remains alive and well.
Let’s finish this job.
Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.