According to studies from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, between 15 and 43 percent of LGBT people have experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace as a result of their sexual orientation. Even more staggering is the proportion of transgender individuals who have had such experiences: 90%. Furthermore, only 21 states have passed laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the law only extends to include gender identity in 16 of those states.
These are the stories of five individuals who lost their jobs due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, even in states where such discrimination has supposedly been banned:
1) Lisa Howe (Tennessee)
This former Belmont University soccer coach was fired in December 2010 after she came out to her soccer team that she is a lesbian and announced that she and her partner were expecting their first child. While the university’s official statement at first said that she had resigned, it was soon amended to say that the decision had been mutual, and that her continuing to work for Belmont would not be beneficial to her or the university. Demonstrators protested Howe’s termination, as she was a highly successful and popular coach, and they called for an official apology, which they never received. Although Belmont had terminated its ties with the Tennessee Baptist Church in 2007, chairman of Belmont's board of trustees Marty Dickens told The Tennessean that, "We expect people to commit themselves to high moral and ethical standards within a Christian context."
2) Vandy Beth Glenn (Georgia)
In 2005, Vandy Beth Glenn began working as the legislative editor of the Georgia General Assembly while still presenting as a man, Glenn Morrison. Glenn was fired in October 2007 for revealing to her supervisor that she planned to transition from male to female. Her boss, legislative counsel Sewell Brumby, allegedly told her that “her gender transition and presentation of herself as a woman would be seen as immoral, could not happen appropriately in the workplace in which Glenn worked and would make other employees uncomfortable.” This story has a happy ending, however: Glenn sued, and U.S. District Court Judge Story ruled that she was illegally fired based on sex discrimination. The judge ordered that she be compensated for wages during the appeals process. Finally, in December 2011, the appeals court ruled that she should be allowed to return to work.
3) Michael Carney (Massachusetts)
This police officer from Springfield, MA was one of the witnesses in the Congressional hearing on the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) after Congressmen Barney Frank (D-MA) and Richard Neil (D-MA) asked him to testify. He initially left his job as a police officer due to the stress of remaining closeted, but his former employers refused to hire him again after he came out. Carney fought for years to be allowed to work again, a battle that he eventually won. His success highlights the struggles others still face, as he pointed out to Midweek Politics when he said that if he “was a federal officer, or didn’t live in Massachusetts,” he probably wouldn’t have been allowed to continue working.
4) Jodi O’Brien (Wisconsin)
O’Brien, a sociology professor at Seattle University who is openly a lesbian and writes about sexuality, was originally offered a job as dean of one of Marquette University’s colleges. In May 2010, her offer was rescinded. The Roman Catholic and Jesuit-run University told the New York Times that she lacked “the ability to represent the Marquette mission and identity.” University President Rev. Robert A. Wild argued that the choice not to hire O’Brien wasn’t due to her sexuality, but rather to her academic writing, in which he found “strongly negative statements about marriage and family.” O’Brien has written extensively about the topic of gay marriage; if this isn’t discrimination based on sexual orientation, it’s certainly discrimination based on beliefs about sexual orientation. Is there a substantial difference between the two?
5) Peter TerVeer (District of Columbia)
This case is playing out as we speak. Until April 2012, TerVeer was a management analyst for the Library of Congress. He claims that he was harassed and fired because of his sexual orientation, and he has filed a discrimination complaint. WJLA reported that he received emails in 2009 from his boss referencing bible passages that speak against homosexuality, and that “he stated that as a homosexual I could never succeed because it was against God’s law.” The trouble apparently all started when TerVeer “liked” a page on Facebook called Two Dads.
In case you were wondering, here are the 29 states in which it would still be legal to fire you over your sexual orientation: