By John Sequeira
In 2013 the attention given to the topic of gay marriage has been at an all-time high. With more states adopting gay marriage rights and recent cases at the Supreme Court, the topic has received extensive media attention. However an even more far-reaching topic linked to the GLBT community has received little to no attention in the mainstream media nor has it garnered the general population’s consciousness—non-discrimination protection rights for GLBT citizens in this country. As I talk with people about this issue, they are shocked to find that federal protection rights don’t already exist for this group. They just assume that non-discrimination protection rights granted back in the 1960s cover the GLBT community as well. They don’t.
On April 25 the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was once again attempted in Congress, led by Senator Merkley of Oregon in the U.S. Senate. This legislation has been talked about for nearly twenty years in Congress without it ever passing both houses. Is this the year? I hope so.
In my view at least three things have to be different for this legislation to pass. First, the level of awareness that current protections are not in place for our GLBT colleagues, friends, and family members has to be raised dramatically in the general public consciousness. The support for gay marriage outside the GLBT community has grown dramatically over the last few years. However, that right only exists for citizens in less than 25 percent of the United States. While the debate on gay marriage will continue for some time, I believe there is likely more agreement in this country that GLBT citizens should have non-discrimination protection across all fifty states.
Secondly, the general media outlets must become more involved in reporting the topic. For example, the day ENDA was reintroduced in April, none of the three major networks profiled it, nor were there any stories written in the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, or Bloomberg News. Of course there were many stories profiling it in GLBT community-linked publications, but for ENDA to pass it needs to have greater awareness, like the issues of immigration and gun reform.
The heterosexual community must proactively support the legislation through their congressional representatives. Send emails, right letters, and make phone calls advocating for passage of this legislation. For too long the burden has rested on the GLBT community and its advocacy groups. The rest of us must step up and have our voices heard that no longer is it acceptable in this country to discriminate against fellow citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Join me in being outspoken on this topic and advocate for passage of ENDA in 2013.
John Sequeira is the CEO of TL One Partner, LLC whose primary mission is to provide strategic Diversity and Inclusion consulting and transformational coaching to its clients. His corporate career in the energy industry spans over thirty-six years and includes a broad range of Human Resources managerial, strategic advisor and specialist roles.