Ending LGBT Workplace Discrimination
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1306
I shouldn’t have to say this, but LGBT workplace discrimination is serious business.
I mean, puns aside, getting fired because you’re gay, or transgender? That’s just wrong; and it’s not fair.
So what can we do about it?
Well, we’re trying to get a law passed in Pennsylvania.
We want to make it illegal to fire someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Pennsylvania Senator Browne is sponsoring Senate Bill 1306 which will include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. Bill 1306 will make it illegal to fire an employee, pass them up for a promotion, or refuse to hire them on the basis that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and on.
And while that’s only a start, it’s a good one.
On Tuesday, August 26, 2016, I attended a hearing that would decide the fate of a such a bill in the State Capitol.
The council heard cases of LGBT workplace discrimination, and heard many of the benefits of this law.
They also heard cases against the bill, as several speakers talked about why we don’t need a bill, and why this bill would be bad for business.
So, what were they saying?
Well, let’s take a look.
These are the pros and cons of this bill, according to the speakers.
Employees should be allowed to be who they are. If you have employees who are afraid to be themselves, or express themselves, their work is going to suffer. Living in constant fear of being outed, or unable to engage with other employees leads to worker dissatisfaction as they fail to have any significant social engagement with other employees. Ending workplace discrimination would help to eliminate this fear.
Improving Workplace Conditions
A workplace that has employees who are free to be transparent with each other is going to flourish. They are going to form social bonds, and that can lead to increased productivity. Happy employees generally work harder and are more productive than miserable ones.
Making Pennsylvania Competitive
We know that millennials are more fluid and open about sexual orientation and gender identity than previous generations. Further, they’re going to want to live and work in places that understand this and are accepting. Otherwise, they’re going to leave… They’re going to move to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, or California, or any of the other states/cities that have already created laws ending LGBT workplace discrimination.
Unfortunately, it needs to be said. Many of the outlying areas of Pennsylvania have backwards thinking, old ideas and old ways of doing business. We must address the racism and bigotry rampant in areas like Northeast PA. It’s hurting opportunities to grow the area and bring even more business here when there is such significant “brain drain” going on.
Wilkes Barre city councilman Tony Brooks even talked about it in his own city. We have two excellent colleges in Wilkes Barre, PA where kids can get a great education.
But where will they build their career? Will they stay in an area that is unfriendly to them, especially if they are LGBT, or other minorities?
Meanwhile, the opposition speaks…
Ineffectiveness of Current Laws
One of the more shocking opposing arguments was from a member of the Chamber of Commerce.
Essentially, their argument was that because current laws aren’t very effective, we don’t need more laws.
This is a very subversive thing to say.
It appeals to the arguments many people make against any new law. In general, most people want MORE freedom, not less. And the idea of a new law, or rule, makes it sound like they are getting less freedom.
But the opposite is true, here. Anti-discrimination laws give people more freedom. Especially for the LGBT community.
Ending LGBT workplace discrimination gives us the freedom to be ourselves and love who we love.
Impact on Business
Another argument was that this law will be a drag on business.
The idea here is that businesses will be too busy dealing with discrimination to do business. They won’t have time to get work done to hear all these cases. …which is ironic, seeing as how another argument was that these cases are rarely black and white and that these laws are ineffective.
If the laws are ineffective, how would passing this bill create a drag on business? And if a business is being discriminatory of its employees, how do they keep those employees?
Unless corporations are being outright abusive and exploitative of their employees to begin with…
But that’s another topic.
Finally, here’s the big one.
As mentioned earlier, people want more freedom.
There are those people who believe that the LGBT community, and everything they represent, goes against what they believe. They believe that God hates homosexuals and that being transgender is equally sinful. They don’t believe they should have to serve or work with people who are queer because it goes against their belief.
Whether or not these beliefs are right or wrong is up for debate. But religion should not be allowed to hinder others’ freedoms. And ending lgbt workplace discrimination shouldn’t be a religious quandary.
The problem with religion is that it’s so open to interpretation that various parts of the bible can be twisted in ways that would mean or say almost anything.
The Bible can be used to justify almost any behavior or consequence thereof.
It’s impossible to say who’s religious beliefs are being violated, and which religion gets more favor. Do we consider the rights of Muslims, first? What about Buddhists or Jews?
How do we cater to one group and not consider the religious freedom of all groups?
But then, even certain sects of Christianity are ok with LGBT people. Therefore, if people within that group are ok with working alongside and serving the LGBT community, how does it work that religious freedom should bar SB 1306?
Religious freedom is a specious argument, at best, because there’s no reason you can’t serve or work someone whose beliefs are different from your own. In fact, Jesus Christ said to serve and love all people.
The hearing we attended was a fantastic look at how government works. There were so many great points being made.
You cannot fire someone whose position has nothing to do with your religious beliefs. Everyone benefits when laws are fair and just while everyone suffers when laws are discriminatory and unfair. The roots of these laws are based on the fact that there will always be someone who will discriminate against someone, for whatever reason. The very idea of religious freedom is based on a robust theology of segregation. In other words, religion itself is discriminatory, in that it seeks to exclude groups and destroy opposing ideas.
These same arguments for religious freedom have been used to keep minorities from gaining power and to deny them their dignity and respect for thousands of years. As Senator Pat Browne said, “I have an interest in making Pennsylvania competitive.”
The economy of this state was built by accepting all people. To continue discriminating could only serve to destroy what we’ve built.
Call to Action
So, what can we do about it?
Ending LGBT workplace discrimination is a huge step forward towards true progress in this state. Write your legislators and make your voice heard. And if they aren’t listening, get out and vote!
Head to the polls and elect people who will listen and do what’s right.
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Thanks for watching!