June--A Month of Pride
This year’s June Pride Month has been a particularly special one for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and for every American who advocates for equality.
Ending LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace
Earlier this month the President announced he would sign an Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating against gay men, lesbians and others on the basis of sexual orientation. Current workplace discrimination protections apply only to race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability, but there is not a federal employment law that protects LGBT people in the workplace. It is legal today to discriminate based on sexual orientation in 29 states, and in 38 states discrimination based on gender identity is legal. A 2013 survey of LGBT adults by the Pew Research Center found that 21 percent reported workplace discrimination. This flawed policy allows our tax dollars to be used to support any federal contractor who discriminates.
I believe every American should be able to live free from the fear of being subjected to discrimination and denied employment because of their sexual orientation. It is why I wrote to the President in March urging him to take action on workplace discrimination of LGBT Americans.
For several Congresses I’ve been an original co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), to permanently end workplace discrimination by prohibiting public and private sector employers from making decisions about hiring, firing, promoting or compensating an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation creates no “special rights.” It simply ensures that job applicants and employees are judged solely on the basis of their qualifications and performance, not prejudice.
ENDA reflects non-discrimination policies already in place at hundreds of companies across the country, and it will continue to move our country in the right direction to ensure equality for all Americans.
Extending Federal Benefits to Legally Married Gay Couples
The President also announced that additional federal benefits will be extended to same-sex married couples employed by the federal government. The action comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Untied States v. Windsor, which found portions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denying federal benefits to legally married gay couples to be unconstitutional. I voted against DOMA in 1996, because it sought to define marriage as a union between only a man and a woman. As a result of the Windsor ruling, certain federal benefits are to be rightfully made available to same-sex spouses of federal employees. After a year-long review of federal regulations affected by the Windsor ruling, the President has now taken action.
The announcement changes the Family Medical Leave Act’s (FMLA) regulatory definition of “spouse” so that an eligible employee in a legal same-sex marriage will be able to take FMLA leave for his or her spouse or family member, regardless of the state where the employee resides. The current regulatory definition of “spouse” applies only to same-sex spouses who reside in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. Other benefits include changes to interpretations of inheritance laws so they cover “committed partners.” Same-sex couples will now be able to be buried alongside their spouses in VA cemeteries, and also receive death benefits and life insurance proceeds when their partner dies.
Generations of Americans have fought for the preeminent promise of our country—that every person is created equal and is afforded the same fundamental rights as stated in our Constitution, with the promise of liberty and justice for all. During Pride Month 2014, our country has taken critical steps to make real the words and promise of our Constitution by striking down unfair barriers for same-sex couples and combating LGBT discrimination in the workplace. The fullness of our Constitution now reaches into the lives of millions of Americans, making our nation a more perfect union.
All my best,
Anna G. Eshoo
Member of Congress