Category Archives: Workplace

REPORT: Consequences Of ‘Fiscal Showdown’ Could Be Disastrous For LGBT Americans


If Congress fails to act during the lame-duck session, a series of onerous automatic federal spending cuts and tax hikes will go into effect on January 2, 2013. Failure to reach a compromise in this budget battle would be a painful pill to swallow for all Americans. But for LGBT people, failure to reach an agreement on the fiscal showdown would have particularly dire consequences.

If Congress fails to act, automatic across-the-board spending cuts will take effect under a process known as “sequestration.” Today a report released today by the Center for American Progress, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and a coalition of 23 national LGBT organizations highlights how across-the-board cuts under sequestration would reduce key federal programs and services that support the health, wellness, and livelihood of LGBT Americans and their families. For example,

  • Sequestration would hurt LGBT workers. Sequestration would threaten the employment security of LGBT workers (who continue to experience high rates of bias on the job) because federal agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would have fewer resources to investigate claims of employment discrimination.
  • Sequestration would compromise LGBT health. Cuts under sequestration would compromise the health of LGBT Americans by blocking LGBT seniors’ access to Medicare, reducing programmatic funding to health centers designed to serve the LGBT population, and impeding suicide prevention efforts aimed at helping LGBT Americans.
  • Sequestration would harm LGBT youth. Sequestration would threaten federal agencies with the removal of critical resources used to prevent bullying and school violence against LGBT youth.
  • Sequestration would exacerbate LGBT homelessness and housing discrimination. Across-the-board cuts under sequestration would limit the government’s capacity to address the high rates of homelessness among LGBT youth and to combat housing discrimination against LGBT renters, tenants, and potential homeowners.
  • Sequestration would threaten the basic safety of LGBT Americans. Sequestration would restrict available resources designed to address the disproportionate levels of abuse, harassment, and violent crime committed against LGBT individuals.

While the CAP/Task Force report only touches on how these wholesale cuts impact LGBT Americans, failure to reach a deal on the fiscal showdown also means that tax breaks for lower-income and middle class families will expire. This means most families would face a higher tax burden if Congress fails to act. This would be particularly devastating to LGBT families who on average report lower incomes than families headed by different-sex couples. These families cannot foot a higher tax bill, especially when so many of them are already on tenuous economic footing.

In the remaining days of the 112th Congress, it is imperative that our lawmakers act swiftly to protect LGBT Americans from the severe sequestration consequences to federal programs that both directly and indirectly support them and their families. This means a combination of spending cuts that inflict minimal economic harm on American families along with modest tax increases on the wealthiest two percent of Americans. Only through this combination of cuts and revenue can we put our country back on stable financial footing.

To achieve this, however, congressional Republicans must abandon their quest to hold ordinary citizens hostage in order to protect tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. For all Americans—gay or straight, transgender or not—preventing millionaires and billionaires from paying their fair share at the expense of the middle-class is not in the best interest of the country.

Congress has a little over one month to broker a compromise. For all Americans – including those that are LGBT – the clock is ticking.


Gay-rights groups push Obama for executive order on discrimination

Gay-rights advocates plan to push President Obama to go big on their agenda in his second term.

Buoyed by the approval of same-sex marriage in several states on Election Day, lobbyists for gay-rights groups plan to prod the president to sign an executive order that would ban discrimination by federal contractors against gay and transgendered people.

The White House shelved the executive order earlier this year, but it remains a top priority for gay-rights groups. They argue that if Obama signs the order it could encourage Capitol Hill to pass broader legislation that would extend a similar ban to employers.

Allison Herwitt, legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, said gay-rights supporters want to see movement from the president soon.


“The push is to have them do it sooner instead of later,” Herwitt said. “I do think it helps pave the way for a fully inclusive [Employment Non-Discrimination Act]. … It is the way that the government puts its imprimatur on what’s important and makes a difference in people’s lives. The president would be saying it’s important not to discriminate.”


If passed by Congress, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would extend federal protections against discrimination in the workplace to gay and transgendered people. Lobbyists working on the bill admit it has a tough road to passage with Republicans still in control of the House.

Obama has earned praise from gay-rights advocates for repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and for endorsing same-sex marriage. Further, his administration has said expressed support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the past. An executive order could move much faster, though, because it would only require a stroke of the president’s pen.

“I think it’s important for us to move forward and show some momentum that there’s protections for LGBT workers. … This would be huge. You have to understand the enormity of the impact it would have for so many people in our community,” said Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, about Obama signing such an executive order.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act’s main sponsor is Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who will not return next Congress because he is retiring. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) will pick up the mantle and be the main sponsor of the bill next Congress, according to a Polis aide.

Gay-rights groups also plan to lobby for there to be more openly gay officials in the Obama administration.

On the state level, gay-rights groups are aiming to build on victories in Maine, Maryland and Washington, where ballot initiatives legalizing same-sex marriage were approved. In Minnesota, voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

With nine states and the District of Columbia having now legalized same-sex marriage, gay rights advocates believe they can build support in Congress by reminding lawmakers about the views of their constituents.

“Many of their constituents will start to bump up against [the Defense of Marriage Act]. That’s the impact we will use when go back to those offices. That’s different from [Election Day]. They are going to hear it from their constituents now,” said Jo Deutsch, federal director for Freedom to Marry.

The Defense of Marriage Act bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, denying gay couples several protections granted to straight couples. Some courts have ruled the law unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court will decide later this month whether or not to review several cases challenging it.

Same-sex marriage could pop up in other debates next year, including the push for tax reform. Gay-rights lobbyists want parity between how straight couples’ and domestic partners’ health benefits are taxed.

“As Congress hopefully tackles tax reform next year, we are going to try to get our fix as part of the conversation and make it into the final bill,” Herwitt said.

Further, groups like OutServe-SLDN will be pushing the Defense Department to provide the same benefits to all spouses of military service members.

“OutServe-SLDN will be aggressively seeking action from the Pentagon to take steps without further delay to extend benefits and support to gay and lesbian military families under its current legal authority,” said Zeke Stokes, a spokesman for the group.

While election results on Tuesday were seen as a resounding victory for gay rights, there was a downside — several GOP candidates who have been supportive of gay rights were defeated.

Three of the five Republican co-sponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House will not return to Congress next year. Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y) lost their reelection bids, while Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.) is retiring.

American Unity PAC, a pro-GOP, pro-gay-rights super-PAC, saw six out of its eight endorsed candidates lose this election cycle after spending more than $2.2 million on online and television ads.

Jeff Cook, a senior adviser to American Unity political action committee, said the group is proud of its campaign spending and is here to stay.

“Over the next two years, American Unity is more committed now more than ever to help our party modernize so it can appeal to the broader cross-section of voters that we need to win elections in competitive districts in the midst of our country’s new demographic reality,” Cook said.

Nevertheless, the election results have given new impetus to lobbyists to push to expand gay rights in Washington.

“It’s so remarkable from the president being reelected and all of these successes in the states, that it really shows that the American people are with us. We are not going back now and we expect that the president and his administration will continue to move us forward,” Nipper said.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers is pervasive and harmful. It violates core American values of fairness and equality by discriminating against qualified individuals based on characteristics unrelated to the job.

Employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers is pervasive and harmful. It violates core American values of fairness and equality by discriminating against qualified individuals based on characteristics unrelated to the job.

Over the years, Congress has responded when it found that people were not being hired or promoted for unfair or arbitrary reasons, such as race, gender, national origin, or disability. When Congress has found such discrimination, it passed laws to restore civil rights by ensuring arbitrary considerations do not determine access to employment. We believe such legislation continues to be an essential part of equal protection under the law.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) offers Congress the opportunity to ensure workplace equality by protecting LGBT workers from employment discrimination. ENDA is pending federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation. The bill protects workers from discriminatory hiring, firing, promotion or compensation practices, as well as retaliation for reporting such practices.