Ask the White Guy: You’re Gay? You’re Fired!

More than 30 states still allow employers to fire someone for being gay or transgender. Here’s how your company can combat LGBT discrimination.

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 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.

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  • It’s interesting that this passed, even though it is still legal to fire people for being gay in 30 states. Further, it is still a grey area whether homosexual behavior is legal in most states. In the Supreme Court’s ruling in “Lawrence vs the State of Texas” the ruling said only that you can’t pass legislation that prohibits same-sex couples from certain behaviors, while allowing those same behaviors between opposite-sex couples. We are still a long way from an amendment to the constitution (or legislative ruling) that prohibits all discrimination against all GLBTQI in all areas of our lives, in all 50 states. This was an historic step in the right direction.

  • Sen. McAngryPants? How about practicing what we preach and give dignity…. even if you don’t feel like it is deserved.

  • As a veteran, I admired John McCain’s service and sacrifice; as a gay veteran, I can only feel pity for the man. How small and sad he has become.

  • Mr. Visconti, as you said, “let’s finish this job”; we need to get on with it, ensuring the rights of all Americans, and bringing to an end the enormous loss of talent and opotential that the LGB portion of our society brings to the table.

    My hope is that sexual preference will become a protected category at some point; withouth that–as you;’ve indicated–states and companies can legally discriminate.

  • Luke,

    Having Veterans and ERGs work together for equal treatment within large companies would be helpful and your suggestion is great. This would empower individuals and organizations already invested in diversity toward the direction of equality. Well, at least within these companies.

    The corporate gatekeepers typically aren’t involved with those efforts so the impact is mostly internal. You probably know better than I about how many times the usual employment channels are included in those diversity efforts. Along with a host of other reasons, I believe most of the impact would be primarily internal for large companies.

    Corporate divisions and companies get bought and sold. Diversity policies and ERGs come and unfortunately also go. And most people don’t work for one company for life these days. We need to continue our efforts for full equality everywhere. Doing this compliments corporate internal inclusion efforts and adds value to their investment. I believe improving inclusion inside companies and within our society, benefits individuals and companies who believe in equality.


  • I totally agree with you on this one Luke. Senator McCain seems to bend which ever way the wind is blowing. I was surprised to see he was re-elected in AZ.
    This is a positive move for our country. I see many qualified individuals with many talents entering the military service now. LBGT have many people in their corner of the ring.

  • You know, discrimination exists in all shapes, sizes, and forms– and it ruins lives. It’s so unfortunate that just because your of a certain orientation that you can’t keep a job or walk down the street without being criticized. And the crazy thing is that the same people that normally do the discriminating are those that once were discriminated upon. What hypocritical behavior. Sometimes it just takes the wrong movement or wrong gesture for a judgment to be placed on you, and it’s just played out. I for one have been discriminated against because I’m a 15 year old intellectual, something a teen from New Brunswick cannot be. But guess what, no one dictates my way of life. If I want to be educated, then I’m going to be educated. Isn’t that my Constitutional right? This America we live in is so corrupted; we’re not free from the views of each other. Maybe one day LGBT’s can live in peace. One day…

  • I checked out the ACLU website and it was only talking points and didn’t have any data backing up the claim. Maybe they are taking about being able to fire someone for no reason. Do those states have other protection laws? Its tuff to legislate what is in one’s heart. It takes time maybe generations to change that. Just treat everyone on an individual basis and things will work out. Legislation always seems to create more issue than its worth. For example, DADT. Not sure why McCain takes this to heart so much because it is such nonsense.

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