Everyone has hopes and dreams for the future. While the specifics will vary depending upon who you talk with, economic security is often a central theme. There is a peace of mind that comes from knowing that you can comfortably provide for yourself and your family.
However for many LGBTQ people, there is the added weight and stress that comes from knowing you could lose your job simply because of who you are, or who you love, and that you could be forced to hide a critical piece of your identity each and every day.
Unfortunately, today, there are no federal workplace protections for LGBTQ people; and there appears to be no political will in Congress to pass such legislation. In 29 states across the country, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and in 34 states it is legal to fire someone because they are transgender or gender non-conforming. In fact, in three of the states where Pride Foundation works—Alaska, Idaho, and Montana—LGBTQ people do not have any statewide employment protections.
Despite this reality, a 2013 survey found that 8 out of 10 voters incorrectly believe that it is illegal under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
Lack of legal protection has left many LGBTQ people vulnerable to poverty and financial instability. According to a recently released report, 7.6 percent of female same-sex couples are living in poverty, compared to 5.7 percent of married opposite-sex couples; 15 percent of transgender people are making less than $10,000 per year, compared to just 4 percent of the general population; and single LGBTQ adults with children are three times more likely to have incomes near the poverty line as their non-LGBTQ peers. LGBTQ people of color also face the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity.
The numbers speak for themselves. While we continue to advocate for legal protections, it has always been clear that we need a multi-pronged approach that can provide more immediate support to LGBTQ workers.
Our partnerships with the business community, including General Electric, Schnitzer Steel, The Kevin J. Mossier Foundation, and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, have allowed us to do just that. From our ever-growing shareholder advocacy program, to establishing joint scholarships, to aligning with local businesses in Alaska that have a firm belief that equality is good for business—we continue to find new ways to support LGBTQ individuals and families.
As you’ll read in this eNewsletter, many businesses are at the forefront of the pursuit of equality, using their institutional power to protect their employees, to advocate for the LGBTQ community more broadly, and to deepen public understanding and support for our community.
We know that when businesses step up to meet the needs of LGBTQ workers, they are signaling to the rest of the business community that creating an inclusive and welcoming work environment is a priority. We also know that enacting explicit protections for LGBTQ workers through employer policies and practices is good for business, employees, and the community.
Throughout the country, a growing number of businesses are using their leadership to help change hearts and minds and increase public acceptance and support for our community. From improving benefits for LGBTQ workers, to publicly supporting marriage equality (and even signing onto amicus briefs to highlight their support), we have seen the pivotal role that the business community can play in expanding our rights.
Pride Foundation looks forward to continuing our work with businesses throughout the region and country—creating tangible change that has a lasting impact on the lives of LGBTQ workers and families.
Kris Hermanns is Pride Foundation’s Executive Director. Email Kris.