Society and Culture

Congress, Make it Stop: You Can Still Get Fired for Being Gay

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Happy November, folks! Has everyone ditched their spooky, jack-o-lantern-themed front door decorations for some good, old-fashioned hand turkeys? Yes? AWESOME.

Feels good to start fresh, am I right? Post-Halloween, fall takes on a whole new aura.

And the Senate seems to agree! They’re not swapping out their seasonal front door decorations (or are they?), but they are introducing a new piece of legislation! Yay!

Well, sort of, at least. The Senate’s about to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, affectionately termed ENDA by those of us who talk about this shit all day. It’s not actually a new piece of legislation, since it was first introduced in 1994, and passed in 1998, under President Clinton. But after this vote, it might have some important new provisions.

Specifically, this week’s vote is about adding protections that would benefit the LGBT community, so that all of us non-breeders don’t have to worry about getting unceremoniously fired. That would be good, right?

Absolutely! Except here’s the problem—this new and improved version of ENDA doesn’t have great prospects in the House. A bunch of Congress-people down there are planning to vote against it.

We’re looking at you, Boehner. You are just not a likeable guy these days, my man.

He’s publicly opposed the bill, sending one of his henchmen (I mean, spokespeople! Freudian slip, my bad), Michael Steel, to tell the press, “The speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

So, passing a bill that will prevent people from getting fired will magically make jobs disappear? Oh, Boehner, you silly goose. You’ve got it backwards! When people don’t get fired, they get to keep their jobs, meaning less unemployment and a better economy for everyone. But you knew that, right?



Also, frivolous litigation? So, when people sue their employers for wrongful termination, you would consider that to be frivolous? Interesting.

I think what Speaker Boehner is getting at here, is the idea that adding the LGBT community to ENDA is unnecessary. According to him, us queers don’t have a problem with employment discrimination, and if we do, there’s other legislation that can handle it for us.

By that line of reasoning, if we get more laws protecting our employment prospects, queers would pretty much be unfire-able. Every time one of us faces termination—no matter how warranted—we’ll threaten our employer with a discrimination lawsuit, and wind up either suing people left and right, or never being unemployed again.

Ah, if only life were that simple, Boehner. Here’s the reality for queers in the workforce.


Thanks Upworthy!

In the 29 red states on this map, it’s completely legal to fire someone from their job because of their sexual orientation.

Literally. No exaggerations, no equivocations. For real.

In the 29 red states, if your boss does not approve of who you like to fuck in your spare time, he or she can fire your ass, no questions asked.

That is a major problem.

And it’s worse for trans or gender-non-conforming people. There are 33 states where it’s totally legal to fire someone based on their gender identity.

messed up

Seriously. And, up to 43 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have experienced harassment or discrimination at work because of their sexual orientation. Ninety percent of trans folks have had these experiences.

Is it just me, or are those some extremely depressing numbers?

For starters, it sucks being harassed or discriminated against at work. And that’s putting it lightly. We all spend the majority of our lives at work—imagine spending that time getting treated like shit by your boss and/or coworkers, just because of who you are? That shit’s soul crushing.

And that’s if you’re lucky enough to have a job at all. At least in this bummer-town scenario, you’re earning a paycheck.

But what happens when the abuse gets to be so bad that you’re forced to quit? Or when your boss decides that having a fabulous, queermo, rainbow butterfly on his payroll isn’t acceptable, and fires your ass?

Then you’ve got no way to pay your rent. No wonder queers face higher rates of poverty and unemployment.


So, Speaker Boehner, here’s the thing.

Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to ENDA, as two reasons that are NOT legal grounds for firing someone, is a good thing. At the end of the day, it translates to less unemployment, less poverty, and generally, less douche-iness.

So let’s get it done, Congress! Add us queers to your list of legally protected citizens who can’t be discriminated against in the workplace.

Then, maybe next week I won’t write a follow-up piece about how you’re all assholes.

Featured image courtesy of [Philippa Willitts via Flickr]

Hannah R. Winsten
Hannah R. Winsten is a freelance copywriter, marketing consultant, and blogger living in New York’s sixth borough. She hates tweeting but does it anyway. She aspires to be the next Rachel Maddow. Contact Hannah at



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