Free to Get Married–But Also to Be Fired

Gay marriage is now legal everywhere in the United States–thanks to Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling–but in most states it’s still legal to fire or refuse to hire or promote someone because they are gay.

According to, “22 states and the District of Columbia have laws explicitly protecting LGBT workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation. However, this means that there are still 28 states that allow an employee to be terminated on the basis of sexual orientation, and in those states legal remedies are often narrow for private sector employees.

On the federal law front, neither Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act not any other federal antidiscrimination law, prohibits sexual orientation discrimination. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is of the view that discriminating against transgender individuals, or discrimination based on gender identity, is discrimination based on sex and therefore prohibited under Title VII.

Discrimination based on sex stereotypes, or sexual orientation, is also illegal, asserts the EEOC. It has instructed investigators and attorneys that lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals may bring valid Title VII sex discrimination claims and the EEOC should accept charges alleging sexual orientation related discrimination.

Several executive orders prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, but they only affect employees of government contractors. A bill to ban this discrimination has been introduced over the years in Congress (the Employment Nondiscrimination Act), but passage in the current Congress is very unlikely.

So it’s a mixed bag. Gays can marry but their employment is possibly still in jeopardy. There’s more work to be done to bring equality to all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


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