The city of Fayetteville, Arkansas recently repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance
that protected the LGBT community from being discriminated against by local businesses.
Which means that in Fayetteville, right now, local businesses are free to refuse service
or employment to the LGBT community. And Fayetteville isn’t the only place this sort of discrimination
is happening. So, the question is, how is this possible? Is it legal to discriminate
against gay people in the United States?
The short answer is that there is no federal law specifically protecting the LGBT community.
The overall law of the land when it comes to discrimination in America is the 1964 Civil
Rights Act. This protects employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national
origin. However, it does not protect people based on their sexual orientation, something
that people have been trying to amend since 1975. So far every attempt to pass federal
legislation protecting gay Americans has been unsuccessful, including numerous failed votes
for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make LGBT discrimination in the
workplace illegal on a national level.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some laws in place. 21 states and the District
of Columbia have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual identity, 18 of those laws
include gender identity protection as well, but some are only for public employees. Going
deeper than that, over 200 cities have laws in place protecting LGBT communities from
employment discrimination. However some of these laws do not always apply for private
employers or businesses with less than 15 employees and most religious organizations
are also exempt.
That still leaves over half of the country without laws specifically prohibiting discrimination
against LGBT employees or customers. And in many states it is still legal to discriminate
against the LGBT community when it comes to housing, public accommodations, adoption and
hospital visitations. So the answer is yes, in the majority of United States it is legal
to discriminate against LGBT individuals.
However there are people working to change this. President Obama issued an executive
order to protect LGBT federal employees from discrimination in July of 2014 and in 2013
the Senate passed the ENDA protection bill for the first time ever, but the bill has
since stalled in the House and will most likely never pass. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is
also proposing a new bill that will prevent LGBT discrimination in employment, housing,
jury service, public accommodations and more. And many advocates are optimistic of change,
pointing at the rising number of states that have legalized gay marriage as well as the
American public’s growing support of gay rights. According to a Human Rights Campaign
poll, over 70% of likely voters would be in favor of a federal law banning LGBT discrimination
and 87% of American’s already think there is one.
Whether or not you support gay rights, it turns out there’s actually scientific evidence
that homophobia is harmful to everyone. Check out this video over on DNews to learn why.
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