LGBTQ+ Pride in the Workplace

June 2021 marks one year since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a person can’t be fired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yet, the ruling from the high court does not address all workplace concerns for the LGBTQ+ community. The federal law doesn’t protect those who work at businesses with fewer than 15 workers. It doesn’t address bathrooms for transgender people. It does not apply to small businesses with fewer than 15 employees and does not address firings for religious reasons.

Then there are gaps in employee benefits. Some employers may not pay for medical care for transgender people, or could leave out LGBTQ families.

That’s not to diminish the significance of the Supreme Court ruling, which some advocates say was an even bigger deal for LGBTQ Americans than marriage equality.

The “decision was a watershed,” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, which advocates for LGBTQ rights. “But at the same time it’s so basic and entry level. Now we actually get into the details into how that discrimination plays out in everyday lives.”

HEALTH CARE BENEFITS

Transgender workers and people in same-sex relationships often face disparities in access to health care. Employers play a role because they work with insurance companies to decide which treatments should be covered under their employees’ health insurance plans.

For example, an insurance plan that a company crafts for employees may cover hormone treatments for a woman undergoing menopause, but it might not cover hormone treatments that a doctor prescribes for a transgender patient. And same-sex couples sometimes are shut out of benefits such as access to fertility treatments, which are in some states only offered to couples that are not the same gender.

Treatments for HIV, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men, are sometimes shortchanged by insurance plans.

“Some HIV drugs may be outright not covered by insurance at all, or may be covered with copays or deductibles that make the drug essentially inaccessible,” Suffredini said. “It’s like the functional equivalent of denying coverage altogether.”

SMALL BUSINESSES

Not all workers are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which only applies to business with 15 employees or more. But some states have laws that do cover those workers.

Fifteen states have nondiscrimination laws that cover all employers, regardless of size, according to Freedom for All Americans. Another 22 states have laws that cover workers at employers with at least two employees or more.

Connecticut, for example, extends the protections to workplaces with at least three employees, and Arkansas extends it to employers with nine, Freedom for All Americans said.

UNIFORMS

Dress codes and uniforms can present challenges for transgender employees. Rachel Mosby, who was the fire chief in Byron, Georgia, says she was fired from her job after she began showing up to work in feminine dress suits and skirts instead of one of the masculine suits she had been wearing for the last decade. Mosby spent more than $500 of fire department money on the suits, but was issued a written reprimand and required to pay the department back. When she bought herself male suits a decade earlier, there had been no issue.

“These implicit biases and systemic discrimination against people that are others, none of that has gone away,” Mosby said. “It’s still there, and that’s what we have to fight against. That’s what we have to work to remove from our system.”

Mosby filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city for her termination.

RELIGIOUS REASONS

In their ruling, the Supreme Court judges made clear that they weren’t going to make a call on whether a business can fire an employee for religious reasons, leaving that an open question.

“It kind of punted on those issues and said we can address these at a later date,” said Todd Anten, a lawyer at Quinn Emanuel.

Employers that have religious objections to employing LGBT people might be able to raise those claims in a different case, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court.

BATHROOMS

Another issue the Supreme Court said it wouldn’t decide this week: same-sex bathrooms and locker rooms.

Jerame Davis, executive director of LGBTQ workplace advocacy group Pride at Work, said employers right now have a lot of leeway in how they respond if a colleague doesn’t want a transgender person to use the same restroom or locker room as them. Often times, the transgender person is singled out and asked to use a different facility, which isn’t ideal, Davis said.

“We shouldn’t be singling out individuals,” he said.

PARENTAL LEAVE

Most workers in the U.S. do not have access to paid family leave to care for a newborn. But among those that have access to family leave, the policies often favor birth mothers, said Gabriel Dobson, 34, a gay man who is married to another man.

Dobson left his last job because he felt his employer was not promoting him because he is black and gay. Now, at a company that’s more culturally inclusive, Dobson is facing subtler challenges. His new company offers 16 weeks of family leave to a mother who gives birth to a child, but only four weeks to a parent who did not give birth. That’s making him wonder how he and his husband would manage if they adopt a child.

“When you are both non-birth parents and you have a child, who is going to get that time off to take care of the child?” Dobson asked. “It makes you feel like your situation is odd, when that’s not typically how I feel about my situation.”

RECOGNIZING LGBTQ WORKERS

Many employers may not know how many LGBTQ people it employs, which makes it hard to make sure they’re invited or included in particular programs.

Some big employers do allow employees to indicate on their human resources forms that they are LGBTQ, like they do for gender and race, said M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor and co-director of the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“I think employers that are trying to be proactive and are looking at gender gaps or maybe racial wage gaps, they should try to think about ways that they could do the same for LGBT people,” Badgett said.

Source: AP News

Stonewall Riots of 1969

On this day in 1969, in what is now regarded by many as history’s first major protest on behalf of equal rights for LGBTQ people, a police raid of the Stonewall Inn—a popular gay club located on New York City’s Christopher Street—turns violent as patrons and local sympathizers begin rioting against the authorities.

Although the police were legally justified in raiding the club, which was serving liquor without a license among other violations, New York’s gay community had grown weary of the police department targeting gay clubs, many of which had already been closed. 

Soon, the crowd began throwing bottles at the police. The protest spilled over into the neighboring streets, and order was not restored until the deployment of New York’s riot police sometime after 4 a.m. 

The Stonewall Riots were followed by several days of demonstrations in New York and was the impetus for the formation of the Gay Liberation Front as well as other gay, lesbian and bisexual civil rights organizations. The next year, in 1970, New York’s first official gay pride parade set off from Stonewall and marched up 6th Avenue. June was later designated LGBTQ Pride Month to commemorate the uprising. 

A timeline of what lead to the Stonewall riots:

June 24, 1969: Police arrest Stonewall employees, confiscate alcohol.

On the Tuesday before the riots began, police conducted an evening raid on the Stonewall, arresting some of its employees and confiscating its stash of illegal liquor. As with many similar raids, the police targeted the bar for operating without a proper liquor license.

After the raid, the NYPD planned a second raid for the following Friday, which they hoped would shut down the bar for good.

June 27-28, 1969: Stonewall crowd erupts after police arrest and rough up patrons.

After midnight on an unseasonably hot Friday night, the Stonewall was packed when eight plainclothes or undercover police officers (six men and two women) entered the bar. In addition to the bar’s employees, they also singled out drag queens and other cross-dressing patrons for arrest. In New York City, “masquerading” as a member of the opposite sex was a crime.

More NYPD officers arrived on foot and in three patrol cars. Meanwhile, bar patrons who had been released joined the crowds of onlookers that were forming outside the Stonewall. A police van, commonly known as a paddy wagon, arrived, and police began loading Stonewall employees and cross-dressers inside.

Early hours of June 28, 1969: Transgender women resist arrest. Bottles are thrown at police.

Accounts vary over exactly what kicked off the riots, but according to witness reports, the crowd erupted after police roughed up a woman dressed in masculine attire (some believe the woman was lesbian activist Stormé DeLarverie) who had complained that her handcuffs were too tight. People started taunting the officers, yelling “Pigs!” and “Copper!” and throwing pennies at them, followed by bottles; some in the crowd slashed the tires of the police vehicles.

According to David Carter, historian and author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, the “hierarchy of resistance” in the riots began with the homeless or “street” kids, those young gay men who viewed the Stonewall as the only safe place in their lives. 

Two transgender women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, were said to have resisted arrest and thrown the first bottle (or brick or stone) at the cops, respectively. Although Johnson later said in a 1987 podcast interview with historian Eric Marcus that she had not arrived until the uprising was well underway. 

The exact breakdown of who did what first remains unclear—in part because this was long before the smartphone era and there was minimal documentation of the night’s events.

Close to 4 a.m. June 28, 1969: Police retreat and barricade themselves inside Stonewall.

As the paddy wagon and squad cars left to drop the prisoners off at the nearby Sixth Precinct, the growing mob forced the original NYPD raiding party to retreat into the Stonewall itself and barricade themselves inside. 

Some rioters used a parking meter as a battering ram to break through the door; others threw beer bottles, trash and other objects, or made impromptu firebombs with bottles, matches and lighter fluid.

Sirens announced the arrival of more police officers, as well as squadrons of the Tactical Patrol Force (TPF), the city’s riot police. As the helmeted officers marched in formation down Christopher Street, protesters outsmarted them by running away, then circling the short blocks of the Village and coming back up behind the officers.

Finally, sometime after 4 a.m., things settled down. Amazingly, no one died or was critically injured on the first night of rioting, though a few police officers reported injuries.

June 28-29: Stonewall reopens, supporters gather. Police beat and tear gas crowd.

Despite having been torn apart by the cops, the Stonewall Inn opened before dark the next night (though it wasn’t serving alcohol). More and more supporters showed up, chanting slogans like “gay power” and “we shall overcome.”

Again the police were called out to restore order, including an even larger group of TPF officers, who beat and tear gassed members of the crowd. This continued until the early hours of the morning, when the crowd dispersed.

June 29-July 1, 1969: Stonewall becomes gathering point for LGBT activists.

Over the next several nights, gay activists continued to gather near the Stonewall, taking advantage of the moment to spread information and build the community that would fuel the growth of the gay rights movement. Though police officers also returned, the mood was less confrontational, with isolated skirmishes replacing the large-scale riots of the weekend.

July 2, 1969: Gay activists protest newspaper coverage.

In response to the Village Voice’scoverage of the riots, which referred to “the forces of faggotry,” protesters swarmed outside the paper’s offices. Some called for burning the building down. When the police pushed back, rioting started again, but lasted only a short time, concluding by midnight.

The New York Daily News also resorted to homophobic slurs in its detailed coverage, running the headline: “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad.” Meanwhile, the New York Times wrote only sparingly of the whole event, printing a short article on page 22 on June 30 titled “Police Again Rout ‘Village’ Youths.”

The lasting impact of the Stonewall Riots.

With Stonewall, the spirit of ‘60s rebellion spread to LGBT people in New York and beyond, who for the first time found themselves part of a community. Though the gay rights movement didn’t begin at Stonewall, the uprising did mark a turning point, as earlier “homophile” organizations like the Mattachine Society gave way to more radical groups like the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA).

June 28, 1970: First Gay Pride parade sets off from Stonewall.

On the first anniversary of the police raid on the Stonewall Inn, gay activists in New York organized the Christopher Street Liberation March to cap off the city’s first Gay Pride Week. As several hundred people began marching up 6th Avenue toward Central Park, supporters from the crowd joined them. The procession eventually stretched some 15 city blocks, encompassing thousands of people.

Inspired by New York’s example, activists in other cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago, organized gay pride celebrations that same year. The frenzy of activism born on that first night at Stonewall would eventually fuel gay rights movements in Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, among other countries, becoming a lasting force that would carry on for the next half-century—and beyond. 

Donate to the Stonewall Community Foundation.

Source: History.com