Progress and Persistence in Pursuit of Workplace Equality

Filed in Secretary Solis, Workplace Rights by on November 21, 2011 6 Comments

On Friday, I was proud to attend the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s (NGLCC) annual dinner to talk about this Administration’s commitment to support LGBT entrepreneurs and workers.

I’ve spent the last two decades fighting for equal opportunity for LGBT Americans, so I was honored to receive the NGLCC’s Extra Mile Award. But as I made clear in my speech, it’s our LGBT job creators who should be thanked and supported.

Secretary Solis speaks at National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s (NGLCC) annual dinner

It’s hard to overstate the contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to our national economy. Across America, an estimated 1.4 million LGBT-owned businesses are making products, delivering vital services, exporting goods and creating jobs. And LGBT purchasing power is expected to top $800 billion this year.

These numbers demonstrate the LGBT community’s critical role in advancing our economic recovery—and our government’s obligation to promote policies that value their contributions.

I feel fortunate to work in an Administration that believes in workplace equality. As the Secretary of Labor, I see the value that LGBT workers bring to my department every day. They are employed at all levels of my agency, including senior management. And together, we’ve made important strides over the last three years.

Last year, we announced that the Family Medical Leave Act applies to loving families with two mothers or two fathers. More than 2 million children are being raised in LGBT families today, and our ruling means that LGBT workers get 12 weeks of protected leave to care for their child, even if they can’t legally adopt. If you act like a parent, do the work of a parent and raise a child like a parent, then you are a parent, as far as my agency is concerned.

In April, I issued an order to change my department’s EEO policy to add gender identity as a protected category. I did that because it was the right thing to do and because no one should be denied a job or a promotion because of their gender identity or how they choose to express it.

And earlier this year, my department conducted the first-ever national survey on domestic partnership benefits. We surveyed more than 15,000 workplaces to collect data that LGBT advocates can use to make the case for domestic partner benefits with local, state and federal policymakers.

These are important accomplishments, but we all know there is more work to be done.

Congress should pass an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, because sexual orientation and gender identity have absolutely no relation to one’s ability to excel at their job.

The so-called Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed, so LGBT families have access to the same rights and benefits as their straight counterparts. This is especially important because more than 2 million children are now being raised in households with two mothers or two fathers.

And Congress should stop playing politics and pass the President’s American Jobs Act. The bill would provide tax relief and promote hiring at LGBT businesses. And it would help many who are living with HIV/AIDS by outlawing hiring discrimination against men and women who’ve had long gaps in employment due to health challenges.

I’ll be honest: I’m not the world’s most patient person when it comes to issues of fundamental fairness, but I know that progress is possible if we work together. The recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a powerful reminder of what can be accomplished when we keep up the pressure and commit to changing hearts and minds—one relative, one friend and one neighbor at a time.

The push for workplace equality has never been more important. It’s the right thing to do for LGBT people and the smart thing to do for America’s economic future.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Standing and applauding you from my desk at work!

  2. Mark Sinex says:

    I am so glad that it isn’t only our president campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime. There is no doubt that every one of his secretary’s are spending Chinese money to insure that the worst president in the last 30 years gets an undeserved second term. Pathetic.

  3. Gregg says:

    That’s great news Ms Solis about how you support the NGLCC .Adding the gender identity will be protected by the EEO policy be anything like the protected activity under the 11(c) whistleblower program? Will they have better protection if they are gay or lesbian under gender identity and no i have nothing against gays or lesbians it’s just a simple question?You state how your not a patient person when it comes to fundamental fairness.I think i was patitent in waiting for and expecting a fair and unbias investigation for my protected right but did not recieve under OSHA.
    I think you should impose” don’t ask don’t tell” on whistleblowers who are expecting protection under OSHA 11(c) this way they would still have there job right?
    Congradulation on your NGLCC extra mile award Ms Solis.
    Gregg S

  4. Gregg says:

    I would like to clear up what i mean in my comment above by imposing “don’t ask,don’t tell” on whistleblowers. and this would be “don’t ask” if your protected for whistleblowing because your not, ” Don’t tell” OSHA if you uncover unsafe machines that your employer is renting to the public.
    Gregg S

  5. Regulation is NOT Law says:

    The war to preserve freedom somewhere in the world as a refuge from tyranny has been fought here against progressivism for 100 years. Progressives applauded the wonders of Soviet Russia under Stalin’s leadership, praised Mussolini, and named Adolph Hitler ‘Man of the Year” in 1938. The primary tool of progressivism is consolidation of the 3 fundamental authorities of government: lawmaking (legislative), executive (administrative), and judicial (dispute resolution). Administrative agencies are the engine that drives a wedge between governance and the People.

    Article 1 of the US Constitution clearly states that THE (exclusive) legislative authority at the federal level, i.e. the power to make law, vests in Congress and NOT in the people who populate it. Legislators lack the power to transfer any portion of that lawmaking authority from the institution of Congress, although that is precisely the bluff that has derailed the United States’ republic for 100 years. All law-making power is supposed to be directly accountable to the people through elections, but none of us have ever cast a single ballot to elect the administrator of EPA, for instance. Furthermore, every regulation accomplishes only 1 thing: it creates a bully means–that masquerades as legitimate legal authority–for unelected bureaucrats to steal money from the target of the regulation. Across the country, we, and particularly business owners, must realize that regulation is NOT law.

    Understand that Congress has nothing to do with regulation. Congress makes laws by passing bills, and the president may either sign those bills passed by Congress, thus converting the bills into laws, or veto any bill. Regulation, on the other hand, is written by the myriad administrative agencies which have been created by acts of Congress during the past 100 years (e.g. CFTC, FTC, EPA, OSHA, CPSC, TSA, FAA, FCC, etc.). That’s right–a total and blatant violation of the separation of powers doctrine inherent in the Constitution, i.e. the executive (administrative) branch has NOTHING to do with making laws, but ONLY with enforcing them. Furthermore, all members of the executive branch, whether they be police officers, governors, etc. are citizens of the United States first, and officers of the government second, which means that each of them must determine whether a law passed by the legislature (either Congress or a state legislature) is consistent with the Constitution (US and of the particular state). If not, don’t enforce it. We are ALL stewards of the Constitution first and foremost. Obviously, the same applies to regulation. None should be enforced, because the executive lacks any authority to create law or quasi-law, but it will take diligence and repetition for the truth to take hold.

  6. I admire people who fight for workplace equality. Unfortunately, I’m one of those who are constantly discriminated and it’s not funny.

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